Sun doesn't melt Hershey's meet


Sports editor

Last weekend was busy for most youth track participants. Federal Way Memorial Field was the site of the Washington State Hershey’s track meet on Saturday, while the Junior Olympics state meet was taking place at the same time in Shoreline.

“We had the same team going in two different directions, with athletes competing at both venues.” said Federal Way Track Club coach Darryl Genest. “It was a three-ring circus.”

Athletes would compete in one or two events at one location, then drive 40 minutes to compete at the next location.

“Junior Olympics is good, but Hershey’s is more of an elite class,” said Federal Way Track Club member Blake Cowan, 12, who competed in both meets Saturday.

“Junior Olympics is easier to qualify — they take the top 5,” said Justin Helm, 12.

More than 1,500 parents and participants from all over the state came to Federal Way for the chance to qualify for the Hershey’s national meet later this summer in Hershey, Pa.

“It’s cool. It’s sort of like a mini Olympics,” said Eric Radford, 10, of the Federal Way Track Club. “There’s a lot of competition.”

“You just try to do your best,” said track club member Dade Glaser, 12, who won the 11-12 year old softball throw.

With the win, Glaser earned a trip to Hershey, Pa., to compete in the national championships.

“I get kind of nervous when I’m throwing because I don’t know what the kids who go after me are going to do,” Glaser said.

Hershey’s pays for the top two athletes in each event in each age group to spend four days in Pennsylvania, visiting a theme park and touring the Hershey’s chocolate factory in addition to the track meet.

“You have to train real hard, but it pays off,” said Ryan Duchscherer, 12, who competed in the mile in the 13-14 age group. You get to race against kids who are faster than you and see how you have improved.”

Many parents commented on the efficiency of Federal Way’s meet: the Hershey’s meet was ahead of schedule while the Junior Olympics in Shoreline was running two hours behind schedule on Saturday afternoon.

Barb Tight, the Hershey’s state meet coordinator, is a big reason why things run so smoothly. She’s been active in Federal Way track community for 21 years.

“I’m such a perfectionist, it has to be perfect,” said Tight, who spent two months preparing for the meet. “Last night I was so tired, I said, ‘I’m not doing this anymore.’ But when you see all the kids and all the support they get, you say, ‘Oh, maybe one more year.’ It’s fun once I get here.”

Tight gets plenty of help from former Federal Way Track Club athletes who return to the meet to volunteer.

“I said I wouldn’t quit until I knew somebody was capable enough to take over,” Tight said. “Those kids are stepping up and they’re doing an awesome job.”

Tight mentioned Kelly Blucher and Patty Manthey for helping coach the kids from the district meet to the state meet.

Groups who helped out at the meet included the Decatur cheerleaders, who handed out ribbons, the Federal Way Kiwanis, Stadium Cross Country, the Federal Way Track Club and the Hershey’s program.

At the beginning of the meet, Ron Mattila was honored for his 25 years of service to Hershey’s track.

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