Youth Track Club introduces kids to athletic activity

Garrett Smith, 9, practices throwing his arms forward to extend his distance as the kids in Grand Junction Parks and Recreation’s Youth Track Club learn better form in the long jump.



By KENT MINCER

After four weeks participating in the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department’s Youth Track Club, Jorin Larsen is fairly sure the program has made him run a little faster.

“I think so,” the 11-year-old Larsen said. “I probably have. I hope so.”

The club, which meets three mornings a week from 7:30 to 8:30 at the Stocker Stadium track, isn’t designed to produce the next Shawn Crawford or Allyson Felix.

“They learn the basics of track & field,” club coach Annie Sjolund said.

Even if they don’t participate in track & field in later years, the club is building a basis for all other physical activity.

“It’s good for them in any sport they do,” Sjolund said. “It’s like the foundation sport.

“It’s good coordination for them to learn.”

“It’s really fun,” said Larsen, who enjoyed the club’s first session in June so much that he signed up for the four-week session in July. “You learn (and) it’s good exercise.”

Sjolund and her co-coach, Clay Kame teach the youths, ages 7 to 14, the basics of correct leg alignment and arm form. Beyond that, it’s important to the coaches that the athletes develop an enjoyment of the sport.

That starts with getting muscles properly warmed up before the workout and cooled down after the session.

Before he joined the track club in June, “I wouldn’t think to stretch,” Larsen said.

Now its a regular part of his running routine.

To maintain enthusiasm, Thursday, the last day of the week for the club, is a fun day.

The participants do relays, learn to long jump or high jump and partake in some fun running games.

“I really think everyone enjoys it,” Sjolund said.

The coaches try to split the group according to age.

“That way the younger kids don’t get discouraged and the older kids have someone to push them,” said Kame, himself a four-year track athlete at Central High School.

Most of the running consists of sprints.

“They’re kind of young to do distance work,” Sjolund said.

“Distance to them is like a 400 (-meter dash),” Kame said.

Sjolund and Kame hope the class brings an appreciation of the sport. That’s why when they break the group down at the end of practice, they always have a club cheer.

“Track rocks!”


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