Scott Draper, 12 a 6th grader at Palm Bay Elementary, pulls ahead of Gage Marvin of Palm Bay Charter School to win the 1600- meter race during the Hershey Track Meet at Bayside High in Palm Bay. / John M. Egan, for FLORIDA TODAY

PALM BAY -- Young athletes were off and running to the cheers of family and friends during the annual Hershey Track and Field meet at Bayside High School in Palm Bay earlier this month.

More than 600 boys and girls age 9 to 14 from 13 area elementary and junior highs competed in 29 running events from the most demanding individual distance races to team relay races and field events on April 9.

Celebrating their 19th year in the Palm Bay community, the Hershey Track and Field meets are the largest youth program of its kind in the United States and Canada.

For more than 30 years the program has been dedicated to the fun and physical fitness of the young athlete, in addition to providing a learning and social experience for boys and girls ages 9 to 14.

Athletes in Palm Bay competed in the 1,600-meter run, 800-meter runs, 4x100-meter relays, 200-, 100- and 50-meter races, standing long jump and the softball throw.

First place winners in their respective category qualified to compete in state-level competition in June.

Scott Draper of Palm Bay, 12, a 6th grader at Palm Bay Elementary, finished first in a field of more than a dozen competitors in the 1,600-meter race.

I am tired but I was able to win, he said. I feel great. That was my fastest time in the mile.

His time for the 1,600-meters was 6 minutes, 14 seconds.

In her first year competing in the Hershey Track Meet was Reigna Stokes of Palm Bay, 9, a 3rd grader at McAuliffe Elementary.

I am excited, but a little nervous, she said as she waited for the whistle to start her 4x100-meter relay. I’ll be OK. I like to race.

Competing in the age 9-10 girls 50-meter run was Shanna Dill of Palm Bay, 10, a 4th grader at Lockmar Elementary. This is my first race and I am excited, she said. I was second place and that made me happy.

Running in the 100-meter relay was Khalil Paul, 11, a 6th grader at West Side Elementary. He was excited when finished first in the race in a time of 52 seconds. This was my best time, said Khalil. It was hard but I am excited.

Triathlete Yasmine Graham of Palm Bay, 10, a 4th grader at Riviera Elementary, competed in the 50- and 100-meter races and the standing long jump.

I enjoy running and having fun, she said. It is a great time and I meet new friends too.

Meet organizers were pleased with the turnout.

Today’s event has been an enormous success, said Palm Bay Hershey Track Meet coordinator Keith Green. This is my 13th year as the event coordinator and I enjoy it more and more each year. It is a great event for the kids, their families and friends.

For information about the Hershey Track and Field program visit hersheytrackandfield.com. Comments | Share your thoughts »