Letter to the editor: Youth track and field should be brought back to life


Congratulations to the three local athletes, Nicole Wells, Simone Wells and Sydney Blanton, for their performances at the USATF National Jr. Olympic Championship. Also, congrats to Jalencia Griffin and Delaney Frierson for their performances at the AAU National Jr. Olympics.

These track athletes are examples of why we need to bring youth track and field back to life in Sumter. As it stands now, with the middle school track program currently suspended, most kids do not get exposed to track and field until they reach high school. This is where former track athletes, track coaches, PARD and others can step in and help establish a youth track and field program. Athletes will learn good mechanics, proper techniques and become more skilled in their track and field events. They can put their newfound skills to the test at developmental track meets, all hosted by established youth track clubs in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia throughout the summer. This is likening to AAU basketball tournaments and Dixie Youth softball and baseball. As Coach Scott said, these meets would give them a chance to establish personal marks in their events, measure themselves against other athletes and earn them a chance to qualify for AAU and USATF championship meets.

But, first off, we need decent oval Mondo tracks at Alice Drive, Hillcrest, Bates, Chestnut Oaks and even the high schools. Hopefully, the Sumter School District has this need included in their budget. Also, P4P could easily be used to convert one of the many soccer fields at Patriot Park to a track and field venue, or maybe lay a track around one of the football fields at Dillon Park. If the penny tax can fund for major additions to the Palmetto Tennis Center, and for a $900,000 pavilion in Patriot Park, I don’t see why the penny tax can’t fund for a public track and field venue for our youth.

The youth outdoor track and field season runs from April to August every year. The age range is from 6 – 18 years. Don’t we always hear the talk about giving our youth something to do to keep them off the streets, to put down the electronic devices and get involved in some type of physical activity? This is one program that can do that. By the time the track season ends, school is back in session. These kids will go back feeling much better about themselves, knowing that they had a fun and productive summer. Maybe even earned a few medals along the way.

You don’t have to be a member of a track club to participate in the AAU and USATF track programs. If you are a parent, former track athlete or coach who is willing to devote time to working with young kids, that’s all that is needed.
For more information, go to South Carolina Track & Field (usatfsc.org) and AAU — Track and Field (aautrackandfield.org).