This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
WEST GOSHEN — The stands at West Chester East High School were a sea of green, red, yellow and other colors as they were filled with fourth- and fifth-grade students from five of West Chester’s elementary schools.
The other five had filled the same stands the day before.
But before long, a sea of color emptied onto the track and football field as the students took part in West Chester’s annual elementary track meet.
“This is probably the most long-running tradition we have at the elementary schools,” said Cathy McGinley, the Health & PE department chair.
… [Please continue the story on the Daily Local News website by clicking here.]
The tradition has been going on for over 24 years.
Though little has changed, the event has gone from all 10 schools in one day to the now split format, which rotates the lineup of schools.
The event itself has also moved from being hosted at West Chester University to rotating among the three West Chester high schools.
“We thought it would be better to have it locally at one of our high schools,” McGinley said. “The students get the pride of competing at their high school. We rotate around so that there will always be a cluster of students who will realize it will be their high school in a few years.”
If a passerby didn’t know any better, they would have thought it was a huge Olympic meet going on — just one for youngsters.
The track meet features a little bit of everything.
Students pick events in the running, jumping and throwing categories, including mile runs, relay races, hurdles, shot put, distance throwing, long jumps and more.
“Throughout the whole meet, everyone gets to have their own relay team that they have preselected and practiced with,” McGinley said.
The students use three weeks of time leading up to the meet to prepare with choosing their events, practice and the choosing of teams.
“They try to improve their time or distance,” McGinley said.
To make things fun for the students — and less hazardous — hurdles are made of foam, the shot put is just 6 pounds and the distance throw is measured using a vortex ball.
Though there may be races and things to measure, no one is awarded anything to be the best. It’s more of being better than you were anticipating for yourself.
“They get the bragging rights knowing where in their heat they finished and they look at the clock to see if it’s a really great time,” McGinley said. “We make it self-testing. The focus is on improving your event and getting in as many events as you can do.”
With all the events going on at the same time, none of it would be organized if it weren’t for the help.
“We could not do this without parent volunteers,” McGinley said. “They are wonderful. It’s such a popular day with parents.”
Also helping to lead the way are all the PE teachers as well: Bill Twaddle (East Bradford), Michelle Miller (East Goshen), Rob Miller (Exton), Mike Usilton (Fern Hill), Mike Yarosewick (Glen Acres), Joanie Lepage (Hillsdale), Bill Young (Penn Wood), John McConnell (Starkweather), Jim David (Westtown-Thornbury), Becki Monte and McGinley (Mary C. Howse) herself.
“We couldn’t do it without huge cooperation from the athletic director at (East),” McGinley said. “As staff, we run all of the events and divide and conquer.”
Most importantly, it’s about the kids staying fit, learning sportsmanship and just having fun.
“The kids love it — they cheer and have banners,” McGinley. “It makes me cry when I look at some of them. You can see them beaming and hugging each other on their teams and doing cartwheels.”