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Youth track: Hershey's meet set for Monday (June 17)

WORTHINGTON -- The Hershey's Track & Field Games is kind of friendly and laid-back.

But for a friendly, laid-back event, it can lead to memories that last a lifetime.

Last year, a boy who competed in the Worthington running of the Hershey meet -- Ammanuel Fissiha -- advanced all the way to the national competition in Hershey, Penn.

You just never know what might happen.

Hundreds of young athletes from around the region have the chance to strut their stuff at the 2013 Worthington Hershey's event Monday (June 17). The meet was postponed from Saturday due to threatening weather.

Registration will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Worthington High School track, with competition starting at 6 p.m.

Kids between the ages of 9 and 14 (as of Dec. 31 of this year) are eligible to participate. Events include the softball throw and standing long jump (for everyone); the 50-meter dash (9, 10-year-olds); 100-meter dash and 200-meter race (for everyone); 800-meter run (11, 12, 13 and 14-year-olds); and mile run (13, 14-year-olds). A 4 by 100-meter relay race at the end of the meet is open to everyone.

"There are kids from Luverne, Pipestone, Marshall, Redwood Falls. They come from everywhere," said Worthington YMCA program director C.J. Nelson, who is coordinating the event.

Nelson, a 2004 Worthington High School graduate who started out as a local coach and gradually become more involved in the program, said the Hershey Games usually draws 130 or more competitors. This year's event was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, but event officials delayed it a bit to monitor threatening skies. A thunderstorm rolled in at about 10:30 and the decision was made to move it to Monday.

"There was a good crowd (Saturday)," said Nelson. "We're hoping we can get everybody back and maybe get some more."

Nelson is a big fan of the Hershey meet which, though it offers the opportunity for top performers to advance, stresses fun over competition.

Spikes are not allowed.

"It gives kids an opportunity to see what a real track meet is like. It's a fun, laid-back thing," Nelson said Sunday.

Historically, local high school coaches have been instrumental in offering their services. YMCA staff and community volunteers, including parents, have stepped forward to make sure the event runs smoothly. Local sponsors are Jessica Noble State Farm Insurance, Mick's Repair, Culligan, Pizza Ranch and Guide Point Pharmacy.

All meet participants, including volunteers, get a T-shirt.

Gordon Moore, who with his wife Jane has volunteered for years and also guided their children through the program, is, like Nelson, a big supporter of what Hershey's provides. The Moores accompanied Fissiha to the state meet in St. Peter last year after he qualified in the mile run.

"It's an excellent program, and I think it's important for the entire community," Moore said. "And you really get to see some of the upcoming track stars. It allows kids of all abilities to compete in a noncompetitive and non-threatening environment."

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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