Participants of the Hershey’s Track and Field Games race towards the finish line Thursday night at East Lake Athletic Park. The games saw a total of 80 kids qualify for provincials.

Hershey's track and field event sends 80 to provincials By James Emery/Senior Reporter

Last Thursday's Hershey's Track and Field Games marked a special milestone when it was hosted in Airdrie.

The first-ever Airdrie meet became one of the largest Hershey's Track and Field events that saw nearly 300 athletes aged seven to 14 attend.

In Airdrie, we always go big or go home, laughed event coordinator Jodie Matsuba-Szucs. The kids had a blast — it was all about the kids.

In total, there were 52 timed running events as well as field events and a softball throw.

Although there was a delay in getting the event off on time for the 5 p.m. scheduled start, once things got rolling, it went smoothly.

We ran in three hours and 40 minutes, which is really good for the size of it, Matsuba-Szucs said.

The top four finishers in each event between the ages of nine to 14 qualified for provincials.

About 80 local kids qualified for the June 18 provincials, held in Edmonton.

Those aged seven and eight were only allowed to compete locally.

On the track, the young athletes raced in the 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600-metre sprints along with a 4x100-metre relay event.

On the field, softball throwing and standing long jump kept the athletes busy.

In most Hershey's events, only the kids who qualify for provincials take home a memento of their success.

Some kids can often go home empty handed.

We took it a step further and made sure these kids all got t-shirts and things, Matsuba-Szucs said, noting local sponsors were key.

The Hershey's Track and Field Games are designed to get kids out on the track and promote a fun experience.

Matsuba-Szucs said most kids haven't tried these types of events competitively and often find they're talented.

Some of them are surprised how fast they can run, she said. It's all about introducing them to the sport of track and field at an earlier age — that's the essence of these games.

Volunteers played a key role in keeping the event running smoothly, Matsuba-Szucs added.

The volunteers were huge to this, she said. A lot of work and a lot of time was put in by volunteers to put on this free event.

Results from the event are available at athleticsalberta.com.