All-Comers track meet
6:30 p.m.: Long Jump, (High Jump to follow)
6:30 p.m.: 100-meter hurdles (women)
6:35 p.m.: 110-meter hurdles (men)
6:40 p.m.: Parent/child, coach/athlete relays. Each individual runs a 400-meter lap
6:50 p.m.: 50-meter dash (10 and under)
6:50 p.m.: 100-meter dash
7:00 p.m.: 1,600-meter
7:15 p.m.: 200-meter
7:20 p.m.: 800-meter
7:30 p.m.: 400-meter
7:40 p.m.: 3200-meter
Cost to compete: $1
Getting children involved in athletics at an early age is a focus of every team sport.
From baseball to football to cheerleading, children are taking to sports as early as 3 years old, and most coaches will tell you the early start leads to success once they reach middle school and high school.
The track and field community — including the Lanier Running Club, which holds its final All-Comers track tonight at Gainesville High — has not overlooked this theory.
“We wanted to provide the kids in the area a chance to go run and jump,” Lanier Running Club president Charlie Patterson said. “They had chances to do other things, but not in track and field. This provides the kids exposure to the sport.”
Which ultimately leads to a desire to continue to participate as they get older.
“There are a lot of opportunities for young people,“ coach Richard Ludwig said. “If we don’t catch them early… soccer, baseball, cheerleading, they all start young. If we don’t get them, they’ll lose interest.”
That’s the main reason behind the creation of the All-Comers series, now in its third year of existence. The events were held at Flowery Branch the first two years, but the club decided to move the five meets to Gainesville this year.
That move, along with a posting on the calendar at gatfxc.com, has boosted the number of participants.
“I think holding it at Gainesville has helped because it’s more centrally located,” Patterson said. “That, and a lot of clubs pick it up on the Georgia track and field website and I’m not sure if we did that last year.”
Athletes as young as 3, and as old as 80, participate in the All-Comers events, which began in early June and conclude tonight. The organizers consider tonight’s event the championship meet and will provide medals to the competitors who fare well.
“I’m not sure how it’ll break down,” Ludwig said of the medals, “but I know we have 150 of them and that they’ll be awarded to each age group.”
There are several age groups competing in the event, but the highlights of each event occur when some of the area’s best athletes take to the track.
High school state champions, Paul Malquist and Ty McCormack both participate in the meets.
“This is an opportunity to showcase our athletes and allow people who want to compete year-round to compete against good competition,” Ludwig said. “We’re getting people from all over North Georgia at these events.”
With a $1 entry fee, the All-Comers meets are affordable for those who want to participate. The money raised from these events provide funds that allow area athletes, like Malquist and McCormack, to travel to national events like the regional Junior Olympics from July 8-11 in Greensboro, N.C.
Malquist, McCormack, and other local high school standouts, including Sara Hayes, Kenneth Slavik, Emmanuel Ibarra, Erika Rucker, Kiara Woods, Rajeana Jarett and Ansley Lawson will all compete at the Junior Olympics.
While those athletes participate in the All-Comers meets to train for larger events, the club has noticed a growth in the number of participants who compete to perform better in another sport.
“If you’re good in track and field, chances are you’re going to have success in other sports,” Ludwig said. “It’s all about power, strength and speed, and those are things that other coaches look for in their players.”
As the numbers continue to increase — the meets average 60-100 competitors this year compared to the 30-40 last year — the organizers are confident these types of events are here to stay.
“It’s beginning to catch on,” Patterson said. “If we can keep the publicity up, then it’ll continue to grow.”
Patterson credits the area high schools for a portion of the success because each host site allows the meets to take place for free.
“The schools have been very supportive,” Patterson said. “We take care of the set up, the take down, and try to leave it better than it looked before we got there.”