Despite Weather, Hershey Meet A Success


After braving frigid temperatures and cold, gusting winds through two standing long jump attempts, 10-year-old Angela Mitchell learned from meet judges she was tied for first and must participate in a single tie-breaking jump off.

She jogged back to the Payson High School track long jump pit where events were under way.


Running alone and in her Payson Giants Little League baseball uniform, Ashton Wolfe won the 1600 meter run at the Hershey track and field meet held Saturday on the PHS track.

Toeing the take-off board, she listened attentively as her father uttered last-second instructions.

Mitchell squatted, flexed and exploded to a leap of 4-feet, 10-inches that earned her the 9-10-years age group championship at the inaugural Hershey Track and Field program April 9.

The youngster was among the 25 participants, ages 9 to 14, who participated in the meet sponsored by Hershey candy and the Payson Parks and Recreation Department.

Recreation specialist Charlene Hunt, director Bill Schwind and town event staff conducted the meet along with help from Longhorn track coaches and several team members.

Hunt, Schwind and the coaches agreed that the smaller-than-anticipated turnout was probably due to the cold weather.

"It was freezing. I can see why some (youth) didn't show up," Hunt said. "And it was also opening day and picture day for Little League; a lot of kids were there."

Although the turnout was low, the young competitors who did show up impressed onlookers with their refusal to let the cold weather slow their attempts.

Among the gutsiest of efforts was the 1,600-meter run turned in by 12-year-old phenom Ashton Wolfe.

Running alone and in her Giants Little League baseball uniform, Wolfe legged her away around the PHS track in 6:37.

Veteran PHS track coach Chuck Hardt was among those awed by her speed, conditioning and determination.

"She's about on track for what Whitney (Hardt) was doing at her age," he said, referring to Whitney Hardt, now a member of the Arizona State University track team, who set numerous state records as a student at PHS and Round Valley High School.

Wolfe is no stranger to long-distance running. In mid-January, she won a bronze medal in the 12-14-years division at the P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Arizona marathon. Over the 13.1 mile Phoenix course, she was clocked in 1:46.54.

For the multi-talented Wolfe, the Hershey meet wasn't the extent of the day's athletic endeavors. Immediately after the track competition, she joined her Giants teammates at Rumsey Park for a season-opening game.

The games

Winners of the Payson Hershey meet qualified for a district meet next month at a yet-to-be-determined date and place.

Winners from the district meet move on to regional and state showdowns. State champions are entered into a regional pool and become eligible to compete on a team in the North American Finals, Aug. 6 in Hershey, Pa.

The events in each of the Hershey meets include 50-, 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, 800- and 1,600-meter runs, 4x100 meter relay, standing long jump and softball throw.

During April and May, more than 400,000 athletes will compete in Hershey meets in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and in Canada.

The meets began in 1975 in Charleston W.Va. There, Dr. Donald P. Cohen founded them originally as a playground track and field program. In 1976, the program was offered statewide in West Virginia and a year later grew to be a 10-state regional event.

By 1978, Hershey events were held nationally. They are now the largest youth sports program of their kind in North America.

According to Hunt, the competition was brought to Payson to help promote physical fitness, participation, friendship and sportsmanship.

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