What happened to track and field? It may be the shortest athletic season on the high school calendar, but it always offered a chance for the highly competitive and talented to shine on an individual basis, to set goals and to push past personal bests and possibly even records set in years and decades past.
There were the determined and disciplined, who may not have had as much natural talent, but who worked hard to compete even though they knew they would never break a record. The sport also seemed to attract athletes who wanted to enjoy a couple of extra days of sunshine while peers had to sit in classes.
I remember people in my own high school who didnít commit to any other sports, but looked forward to taking part in track and field just to get out of school. The events led to relationships as years passed and students became familiar with others in their events and age categories from other schools.
This year at the local division meet the wind made the day miserable, but that wasnít the reason the fields and cheering areas were empty. There werenít many people on the rosters to begin with.
Last yearís strikes in the education system meant the loss of most of the district meet and all of the provincial meet and some of our best lost their last chance to compete before graduating. The teams lost those competitors, but even more familiar faces didnít come back this year.
It made me wonder if young people are forgetting the joy of being outside, if the lure of technology has finally tied them to their gadgets so firmly they will only compete in team sports where the positive peer pressure keeps them involved.
All the teams were smaller and many of the races were run with several age groups and both sexes running at once. It meant a lot of ribbons and points for individual athletes but the competition wasnít there. I overheard a teacher remembering a time not long ago when parents and fans lined the entire track cheering and trying to find a spot where they could get a good view of the finish line.
I wasnít sure if I should cheer at all. It was so quiet and when I did cheer I tried to remember the names of all the athletes from all of the schools as they passed me.
There were few competitors and few fans this year and although some records were broken it didnít seem exciting.
The young people didnít seem to be buoyed by the energy of a good crowd and stiff competition to push them to the limits of their talent and to the great joy of accomplishment.