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Sports Roundup -- Families hit the track on July 11

Families hit the track on July 11

The Bainbridge All-Comers Track Meets celebrate their 10th anniversary this summer, with the first installment at the high school track on Monday evening, July 11. The races continue every Monday through Aug. 29.

Founded in 1995 by island resident Jim Whiting, the event has experienced steady growth through the years. Weekly turnouts of more than 200 participants and spectators have become common.

There is one difference this year: The Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District is no longer the sponsor.

“Not unreasonably, Parks wanted the meets to be consistent with other events they sponsor,” Whiting said. “That meant charging a very modest admission fee and having participants sign waivers. For 10 years, I’ve had a ‘show and go’ policy. People converge on the track, we line up for each race, and go from there. It’s very informal, and I think it’s one of the reasons for the high level of participation we’ve had.”

Whiting said he was grateful for the park district’s longtime support.

“I was a newcomer to the island when I started the meets,” he said. “Having Parks solidly behind the idea from day one – and being able to use their equipment – was absolutely indispensable. So was their liability coverage. We had a great relationship.”

It didn’t take Whiting long to find an alternate source of support.

“I mentioned to Megan Belt, a friend who has three daughters who have all competed, that I was striking out on my own. Within 24 hours, she called to say that she had lined up two anonymous donors to cover the cost of the meets – insurance through USA Track & Field, equipment and other expenses. I’m very grateful to those two individuals for stepping up.”

Start time is 6:30 p.m. Events include 50 meters, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 4x100 relay and joggers mile (in which the winner is the one who finishes the closest to his or her predicted time). The shorter events are divided into heats according to age and sex. Entrants typically range in age from under 4 to over 70. Admission, as always, is free.

Whiting, a longtime runner and editor of Northwest Runner for 17 years, still serves as the organizer and starter. Runners of all ages and ability levels are welcome.

“Monday evening at the track has become a fixture for many families,” he said. “It introduces kids to the idea that fitness can be a lot of fun. The atmosphere is pretty low-key and everyone is supportive of everyone else. Whenever possible, I make sure that kids are competing against their peers. For a couple of years, I’d had heats for ages 4 and under in the shorter races. Last year, there were so many 3-year-olds that I added a separate heat for them.

Whiting hopes to attract more off-island entrants this year.

“I think it would be fun to have some relays matching people from different schools and/or cities in the county. If there’s enough interest, I’d be happy to add a 4x400 relay,” he said.

For information, contact Jim Whiting at 855-9554 or athletikos@aol.com.

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