In 25th year, meet maintains popularity
In 1983, the Wilmington Track Club decided to host an indoor youth meet at the University of Delaware Field House.
Close to 500 athletes from more than 30 clubs flocked to the First State Track Classic.
The meet just took off, Art Madric, the Wilmington Track Club coach then and now, said of what would become an annual event. A lot of people felt it was one of the best youth meets around at the time.
Apparently, they still do.
Twenty-five years later, the Classic remains in full stride, as Sunday's event that attracted more than 650 athletes representing 45 clubs from six states and Washington, D.C., demonstrated.
Even with two other youth meets drawing teams, one in Jersey City, N.J., and another in North Carolina, entries to the First State Track Classic had to be limited. Competitors were as young as six and as old as 18.
The Classic has been the primary fundraiser for the often cash-starved, 30-year-old track club, helping to cover uniform, entry and travel expenses for summer outdoor competition.
It's really our lifeline, Madric said. It's how we can exist.
In a typical year, the Wilmington Track Club will have about 30 athletes. Since its inception, it has helped pave the way for about 50 of them to earn college track scholarships, Madric estimated.
Mike Fisher was one of the WTC coaches who helped hatch the First State Track Classic idea. Though he isn't coaching anymore, he has stayed involved with the event.
It's a testament to Art and the other people who've been with us a long time, he said, contributing their time because they enjoy working with kids and like to see them advance and help them get to college. That's really the goal of the program. It gives the kids a chance to get some exercise, get some discipline and maybe travel on their own.
Fisher and Madric both praised the university for allowing the club to rent, at minimal cost, its indoor track, which is often regarded as one of the better such facilities in the Northeast. The track itself is a drawing card.
Over the years, our kids really have enjoyed the idea of having a big-time home meet where their families can come and see them, Madric said. It's that kind of draw for them.
It's an attraction for out-of-state visitors as well, many of whom have been coming since the meet's inception.
George Taylor brought 28 boys and girls, most from the New York City borough of Queens, but a few from Brooklyn and Long Island as well. They constitute the New York Novas.
The main thing for us is, it gives the kids a chance to compete against different youth, said Taylor, who relishes the opportunity to square off against the best from Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In New York, we're racing against the same kids all the time. So our kids get a little more motivated. Plus, they get to travel. They also have to qualify to go, whether it's based on time or attendance.
The Morris Estate Track Club in Philadelphia brought nearly 50 competitors to the meet.
We look forward to it every year, said Diane Vaughn, one of the Morris Estate coaches.
This is one of the best meets because it's not a development meet. This is competition. And they are so organized.
Not all indoor meets use automatic timing, as the First State Track Classic does, Vaughn added, pointing out that some enlist coaches and parents to use stopwatches. Few, also, have team scoring, which adds interest among the athletes. The Morris Estate boys placed third.
The kids love it, Vaughn said.