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All-Comers meet is fun for kids, fun for spectators

The closer Matthew Wendt got to the high jump bar, the more difficult the task appeared. Matthew studied the bar briefly, then bravely crawled over it like a future champion. (Doug Wolter, The Globe)1 / 4
Three-year-old Hunter Cuperus (gray t-shirt) and grandmother Sue Simonson (kneeling, with sunglasses), and friends, inspect the ribbon Hunter received after finishing a race Monday night in the All-Comers meet. (Doug Wolter, The Globe)2 / 4
Hands in the air, Cameron Kinser leaps into the sand pit for the standing long jump Monday night at the All-Comers Track and Field Meet in Worthington. (Doug Wolter, The Globe)3 / 4
At the starting line of an All-Comers Track and Field race Monday night, parents encourage their children to run, and run straight to the other side. (Doug Wolter, The Globe)4 / 4

WORTHINGTON -- As athletic events go, the All-Comers Track and Field Meet staged by the Worthington Area YMCA isn’t exactly high-caliber. But as pure entertainment, it ranks right up there.

The annual event proceeded under warm and sunny skies Monday evening at Trojan Field, and the little kids provided the most fun for spectators.

Before the running races began, there were the high jumping, softball throw and long jumping events. The little ones, as young as 3, ran up to the high jump bar that was lowered to knee-length on an adult. But it was chest-high to the young ones. Some ran bravely to the bar, stopped upon reaching it, eyed it for a few seconds -- and ran back to where they started without jumping.

The older kids had an easier time of it. There were one or two who jumped it without rolling into the soft landing area provided. They had long legs. They just leaped over it and landed feet-first, as if they were stepping over a mud puddle.

You’ve never lived until you watched a bunch of 3-year-olds take part in a 50-meter dash. In one of those races on Monday, witnesses could see three of them bunched together and happily nearing the finish line. The lead runner, about eight feet away from the end, suddenly turned and ran back in the direction from where he started. The other two, seeing this, also turned and ran toward the start. None of them actually finished the race.

But that’s OK. You never know what kids will do in their first taste of track and field.

Even 2-year-olds raced. Well, some of them did. They all managed to get to the starting line, at least. And in the 6-year-old 100-meter race, one boy lost his shoe near the beginning of his sprint. He picked it up and carried it all the way to the end.

Keep an eye out for him when he gets to high school. He’s got the right attitude.

YMCA program director CJ Nelson was pleased about Monday’s participation level.

“This is probably the best we’ve had in a long time. We got a beautiful day out here,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to come out. A lot of them have never done it before. They can run, they can walk. You might be OK at something, but great at something else.”

That’s, of course, true. The All-Comers meet is not a real competition, really. It’s a family-friendly event designed to get parents and children outdoors together to enjoy a night out -- to have fun together, and with neighbors and friends. Many of the kids don’t know what they’re doing when they get to the track, but they do it anyway, whatever way they can.

“It’s a big learning day, and a lot of it is just watching other people do it. And the whole point of this is making it fun,” Nelson said.

Emma Thuringer, who graduated Worthington High School in the spring after a career in track, volleyball and basketball, was a helper on Monday. Her job, she said, was to try to show the newcomers the basics.

“Just put ‘em on the line and tell ‘em to go. Encouraging them a little bit,” she said, adding, “It’s so cute.”

Indeed it is.

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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