Halle Kay Shelton makes running the track seem easy.
The 11-year-old, running with a team from St. Catherine Laboure Parish, placed first in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and long jump for her age bracket at the CYC track finals May 15 at Bishop DuBourg High School.
Halle Kay started running track as a kindergartener, overcoming a fear of the noise of the starter’s pistol. “My goal is to get to the Olympics,” she said. Her idol is Jackie Joyner Kersee, and she met the track star at a running event. To prepare, she said, “I tell myself I can do it, and I just zoom down the track.”
Halle Kay was among many who were glad the CYC track season happened this year. With a large number of participating youths and fluctuating pandemic guidelines, CYC Sports wasn’t sure how it was going to pull off a spring track season
But they did it successfully, with flexibility at top of mind.
The season typically runs from April through May with smaller meets leading up to four qualifying meets, but was abbreviated to two final meets, held May 8 at St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon and May 15 at Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis. The number of athletes also was smaller, with 17 teams and 575 participants; typical participation pre-COVID was around 55 teams and more than 2,200 athletes.
Planning for track starts well before the season. The process includes confirming meet locations with high schools by September, said CYC associate director Laura Bailey. But last fall, schools were not able to rent out facilities due to local COVID guidelines. By late January and into early February, schools were still up in the air about facility rentals, so CYC decided to call off the season.
When a task force of high school athletic directors began discussing the high school track season with St. Louis
County health officials, Bailey recalled, “I thought, maybe we could do this? We reached out to track coaches who were disappointed (about the cancellation of the season) and asked what they thought. We were able to get a plan approved with the St. Louis County Health Department.”
From early on in the pandemic, the CYC Office consulted extensively with local and state organizations, health care institutions, other local youth sports organizations, and created a subcommittee to review guidelines and plans for safely returning youths to CYC sports. Youth sports leagues resumed activities last fall, starting with CYC soccer and volleyball.
Some CYC track teams opted out this season, and CYC eliminated participation for athletes ages 7 and under for this season. The season is typically open to kindergarten through eighth grades. “The 7U is largest group; they need a lot of guidance, and it is a lot of kids,” Bailey said. The number of events an athlete could participate in also was scaled down, with coaches declaring events participation before the meets.
“The track teams are some of my favorite people to work with,” Bailey said. “Because we have so many volunteers, I work with them more; as well as the coaches, and they’re working directly with the kids and me. The sport is unique in that it is independent but also a team sport. It’s great seeing the kids cheering on other kids.”
“The cool thing about track is the kids who are even in last place are having fun, because they’ve got a smile on their faces,” said Dan Fitzgerald, executive director of the Catholic Youth Apostolate’s CYC Sports program. “We had a miler who came in almost a full lap behind the rest of the group, and she had the entire stands cheering for her. She got a little extra pep in her step there.”
Bailey credited the help of many volunteers, who organize the athletes and position them in their lanes, help run field events and record results. A company was hired this year to help with timing events, Bailey noted. “They do such a great job to make this happen,” she said. “The meets are long, and this would not happen without them.”
Bailey also credited the generosity of Catholic high schools, in donating facilities for the meets. Before the season was scaled to two final meets, CYC Sports also had the cooperation of Chaminade, Vianney and De Smet Jesuit high schools in donating facility space. “The partnership we have with the high schools and ADs has been great,” Bailey said. “Donating their tracks and opening the facilities to us has been a huge thing.”
>> CYC track results
May 8 at St. Dominic High School: www.stlreview.com/3btNOmP
May 15 meet at Bishop DuBourg High School: www.stlreview.com/3btNOmP