Having a field day

Boys’ and Girls’ Club campers participate in a variety of races during Track and Field Day on Friday. Photos by Eve Edelheit.

Boys’ and Girls’ Club campers try to break records at annual event

Patrick Hosken | Staff Writer

On a sunny Friday morning at Boys’ and Girls’ Club, the grassy waterfront behind Beeson Youth Center was unusually quiet. There were no campers gathered in groups on the grass behind the Boys’ Club building and no kids chatting on the green benches inside the Girls’ Club.

Everyone flocked to one location — the recreation field between Club and the John R. Turney Sailing Center for Club’s annual Track and Field Day.

The event is one of Club’s biggest, along with Air Band, their annual carnival and, especially, the Water Olympics. On Club’s schedule every other year, Track and Field Day and Water Olympics switch weeks, so families who only stay for some of the season can experience the other one next year.

This year, white painted lines on the grass field created running lanes for participants in the day’s 50, 100, 220 and 440-yard dash runs. Eight runners lined up at the starting line each sprint, eagerly awaiting the signal from Chuck Bauer, who is Club’s waterfront director.

“Take your marks, set, go!” Bauer exclaimed before each race.

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Up the hill on Sharpe Field, campers lined up to lob softballs as far as they could in the softball throw event, while others tossed a discus across the field. Counselors ran out to measure the distance between the projectile’s landing spot and starting point. The Club basketball courts were home to a basketball toss event, while the volleyball court hosted shot put.

A white wooden board told all the records of these events from years past, leaned up against a path light near the activities. The board held the names of all current record holders, with some dating back to the 1980s, ‘70s and even ‘60s. Tara VanDerveer, Stanford University’s women’s basketball college coach, currently holds the Club record for Groups 8 through Student Athletic Club participation in the softball throw event, set in 1967.

Club’s assistant director John Chubb said Club usually sees a record beaten about once every one or two years, but some have stayed strong for decades.

“A couple of those records, I don’t think, will ever be beaten,” Chubb said.

This year’s shot put event saw SAC camper Alex Barakat set a new record, with a distance of 43 feet 8 inches.

One of the most popular events, Chubb said, is the big relay race. It’s a team effort and requires people to rely on each other in order to achieve success.

Around 11, campers teamed up for the relay, which took them in a circle around the field, the circle’s perimeter marked off by cones. If they ran inside the circle at any point, Club instructors said, their team would be disqualified.

Despite the heated spirit of competition that can arise, campers lined the hedgerow just outside the field to cheer on their peers in the event. With a sparkly Chautauqua Lake just feet away from the field, the hedgerow proved to be a nice vantage point to view the Club contests.

Between events, some campers took shelter from the sun on the Club playground, conversing and relaxing. Other campers — and counselors — sought refuge on the shady hill just down from the playground.

The day’s final event, the counselor relay race, proved to be a big hit, even calling some sailing center instructors over for the event.

Campers flocked to the track to cheer on their counselors, resulting in a chorus of name chants. After the counselors, mostly in their teens and early 20s, completed their run, Track and Field Day winded down, and the colorful crowd down at the recreation field began to disperse, with many of the kids heading for the Youth Activities Center to grab lunch.

Chubb said the event is an attempt to balance fun and competition, something he think it accomplishes every year.

“And, at the end of the day, there’s no hard feelings or anything,” he said.