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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions May 26, 2016

6/24/2010 1:35:00 PM
Mini-track meets for all ages
It's a Verde Valley affair Tuesday evenings at Red Rock High School this summer
Forrest Hartley long jumps Tuesday in Sedona. VVN/Sean Morris
Forrest Hartley long jumps Tuesday in Sedona. VVN/Sean Morris
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Verde Valley competitors participate at a Sedona Red Rock High School All-comers meet Tuesday July 22, 2010. Click here to purchase this photo

Sean Morris
Sports Reporter

SEDONA -- Verde Valley track athletes hone skills and stay active over the summer by competing in all-comer track meets every Tuesday at Sedona Red Rock High School.

It costs just $1.50 an event to participate and the meets are open to all ages.

They start at 6 p.m., but at 5:30 p.m. the Sedona coaches provide clinics to instruct newcomers to the sport.

"We just want to provide this for the community-the whole Verde Valley, everyone is welcome," said Sedona Head Track Coach Harry Schneider said. "It's all about having fun and the people who come are smiling, laughing, and just having a good time."

He and his wife Christine decided to have mini-meets every Tuesday in June and July this summer as a fundraiser.

Coach Schneider said Christine is the one who runs the meets.

They're not raising that much money because the cost to compete is so low, but for them it's not about how much money they raise-it's about providing an opportunity for people to share their passion for the sport together and spark local interest.

At any point during the meets several event stations run simultaneously. From shot-put to pole-vault and foot races to long-jump, there is constant activity just like the big track meets.

Nine-and-a-half-year-old Forrest Hartley is one of the newcomers. As he ran or jumped in various events Tuesday the older kids were cheering him on in support.

His mother Rhea Maceris is happy Forrest has shown an interest in the sport because he's continuing a family tradition.

"I value it a lot," said Maceris. "My father was a track coach, so to see Forrest experience this is great. Our family ran together. Track was like breathing for us. When Forrest expressed interest I thought, 'Yay! I'd love to support it'."

Forrest has learned a lot from the clinics before the competitions and you can tell he has a great time at the meets.

The events are also a way for serious track athletes to stay sharp in the off-season.

Sedona Red Rock's Chris Oestmann was part of the Sedona Boys track team that won the 3A state meet this year.

In the high jump he placed third in state behind two seniors. Oestmann was only a sophomore then and he's using the off-season mini-meets as a way to insure he'll be at the top of the podium next season.

Oestmann jumped 6'- 1' at the state meet and he's already improved that mark by an inch during his off-season workouts.

"These meets are really important to me so I can improve when my competition isn't," said Oestmann. "It's great to improve your personal best during these type of workouts to gain confidence for next season."

Another athlete dedicated to improving is Mingus pole-vaulter Courtney Hageman who finished second to teammate Lesli Kincaid at the 4A II state meet this year. Hageman vaulted a personal record 9'- 9' in the most important meet this season and she's looking to go even higher.

Hageman will test Kincaid's Mingus school record next season and she's taking advantage of every opportunity she gets to practice.

The pole-vaulting culture of the Verde Valley is growing and providing a place for vaulters to train is important so the sport can continue to grow locally; it's not a sport you can just go do, you need very expensive equipment.

Mingus pole-vaulting coach John Ortiz and Sedona pole-vaulting coach William Eaton maximize the instructional time by helping out all the vaulters who compete.

Both coaches were successful pole-vaulters at Arizona colleges and combining their knowledge of the sport helps all the vaulters improve.

Ortiz and Eaton are both in their element around a pole-vaulting pit giving instruction.

Ortiz usually tells his vaulters what they need to do different after a vault, but on Tuesday he brought a video camera and a small television so he could show them too.

It's just an added bonus to the benefit of training at Sedona's great facility.

Eaton's son Walker didn't vault his freshman year, but now he's decided to go for it next season and he's already produced good results at the mini-meets, reaching 10'- 6'.

Mingus graduate pole-vaulter Tanner Drake is using his time at the mini-meets to improve his skills in an effort to walk-on to the ASU track team.

"This is probably the only way I'm going to be able to reach college height," said Drake.

Coach Harry Schneider said the all-comer meets are just about having fun.

The atmosphere is fun, but it also can create a culture where athletes reach their best.

William Eaton is quick to give Coach Schneider praise for what he's done for track at Sedona.

"If you go into the gym you can see the track team is doing something right," said Eaton. "The boys team won this year and the girls team won three years ago and does well every year. The way Harry interacts with the kids and encourages them is incredible. He teaches important life lessons through track. He's a top guy."

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