Hershey Foods is joining forces with the Payson Parks and Recreation Department to introduce fledgling athletes, 9 to 14 years old, to the thrills of track and field.
The inaugural Hershey's Track and Field Youth Program is April 9 on the Payson High School track. Competition begins at 10 a.m., but athletes should arrive at the track by 9 a.m.
Events will included the 50-, 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, 800- and 1,600-meter runs, 100-meter relay, long jump and softball throw.
According to town parks and recreation specialist Charlene Hunt, the competition is being brought to Payson for the first time to help promote physical fitness, participation, friendship and sportsmanship.
In the competition, the youngsters will participate in one of six age/sex divisions. The divisions are -- 9-10-years, 11-12 years and 13-14 years for both boys and girls.
The 50-meter dashes will be conducted only in the 9-10-years age group. The 1,600-meter run will be held in only the 13-14-years division.
Although athletes can register for the meet on the morning of the competition, Hunt is encouraging all participants to pre-register at the parks and recreation office at Green Valley Park before April 8. There is no registration fee.
Winners of the Payson meet will have the opportunity to advance to district, regional and state competition. State champions are entered into a regional pool and become eligible to compete on a team in the North American Finals April 6 in Hershey, Pa.
During April and May, more than 400,000 youngsters 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 meets were being held nationally. They are now the largest sports programs of their kind in North America.