After weeks of stop, start and delay, I've just completed imputing the results of the Wetside Relays. On page B2 of this week's Argus-Courier, you will find an impressive list of the best fifth- and sixth-grade athletes in Petaluma. These are the high-school stars of the not-so-distance future. Their ultimate destiny might not be in track and field, but speed and/or strength will translate into success in any sport.
I lack the track knowledge to know what a good time or distance is for fifth or sixth graders. I do know what a good effort is on any level, and the effort the kids put into their events was exceptional.
And, it wasn't just for individual glory that they competed. There was a very real, and often very loud, sense of school pride. There is very little in the way of inter-school sports competition for elementary school athletes, so when they get a chance to show their school pride, they show off with signs, shirts and shouts.
It only takes about 10 minutes at the Westside Relays to understand that track is, indeed, a team sport. It is also an individual sport with the young athletes competing not only for team honors, but for their own satisfaction.
Many of the competitors already understand about team sports and individual effort through their competition in youth programs, but the Westside Relays are different. They were competing for their school and competing with classmates they see and get to know every day. It is special.
Much has been made about the "obesity epidemic" ravaging our nation's kids. To hear the national commentators tell it, our students are junk food and video-game junkies who need help getting out of their recliners. I don't qualify as an expert on children's health, but what I saw at the Westside relay were hundreds of elementary school kids who looked very fit and were having a great time not texting, tweeting or X-Boxing, but running, jumping, throwing and being with their friends. Kids, like adults come in all body types and there were some who are larger and more prone to weight gain than others, but even the larger youngsters enjoyed the competition, and gave their best.
Not only did the participants appear to be athletic, but they also were bright. They listened and most of them were where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there.
Of course, the kids don't get all the credit for keeping the meet moving. The Westside Relays are orchestrated like a well-tuned symphony, although, it sounds more like heavy middle with screaming, screeching and squealing backed by a chorus of laughter and shouts of triumph.
It is the sound of fun.
(Contact John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org)