Youth track and field program a big hit in Webster City

More than 120 kids take part, four win state titles and 12 to compete at regional meet

The Lynx Youth Track Club will send 12 competitors into the regional meet in Ames next week. Area qualifiers include (front row, left to right) Holden Moore, Bailey VanDeer, Collin Wardell, Dane Hansen, Aiden Wardell, Briley VanDeer, (back) Olivia Gallentine, Nathan Wardell, Spencer Callahan, Morgan Gallentine, Justin Callahan and Brayden Moore.

WEBSTER CITY — Track and field isn’t a sport just for middle school and high school kids. As it turns out, Webster City has itself a strong youth program that is encouraging and preparing the athletes of tomorrow in the present.

Each April, under the Full Hall umbrella, coach Emily Hansen and her trained and supportive group of volunteer assistants tutor a large group of kids in all aspects of the sport. It’s a win-win for everyone; youths learn the ins and outs of track and field, and they have fun while doing it.

The latest program consisted of approximately 120 kids and they got a crash course on everything, from the sprints to the distance events, from the jumps to the throws. They even had the chance to try out the javelin, an event that is not sanctioned by the state’s high school governing bodies.

Hansen says kids are encouraged to try many different events. Is someone good in the sprints? If so, how about trying out the shot put?

Does an individual really thrive at the discus? Why not give the 400-meter dash a try?

It’s all part of what Hansen hopes is a complete experience with the sport. And, who knows, kids may simply learn they enjoy a plethora of events, quite possibly some they never would have tried on their own.

“I want them to have an appreciation of how hard some of those things are and understand that my being good at something doesn’t take away from somebody else being good at something else,” Hansen explained. “There’s also an element of humility where I might be good at this, but not at that. It’s really important to me that, as these kids get older, they understand the team concept of track. Just because I can run well doesn’t mean my team will get first. So hopefully these kids get to the high school level and appreciate the kid out there throwing the shot put that has put a ton of work into that.”

Hansen stresses that the program is for any and all kids who want to give the sport a try. And she says it’s all made possible because of the volunteers who give up their time to help support the program.

“We give the same amount of coaching and attention to every kid, and that’s important,” she said. “We have fantastic volunteer coaches who are excellent, so we have kids learning proper form on things like form in the shot put, or how to throw the javelin.”

The program commenced with a meet on the Sunday before Memorial Day where every kid was able to choose three events to compete, anything from the 80-meter hurdles to the javelin. The roughly 41⁄2-hour meet was once again a success, Hansen said.

“We try to culminate with a big celebration,” she said. “We’ve had excellent support for this program over the last three years.”

A smaller group of athletes extended their stays with Hansen by joining the Lynx Youth Track Club, and it has spent the spring and early summer months competing at various meets throughout Iowa.

The LYTC took part in the 2018 USATF Iowa Association Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Ames last month — a meet that featured more than 700 athletes ranging in age from 7 through high school — and crowned four state champions in six different events.

The top eight individuals in each event advanced to the regional meet back in Ames next week where spots in the national competition will be up for grabs. The LYTC will send 12 athletes on to the regional.

“These kids that we take into the summer are some pretty phenomenally dedicated kids,” Hansen said, noting they get together and practice in the heat of the morning twice per week. “They really come out and work hard. They want to compete and they’re coachable.”

Justin Callahan was a three-time state champion in the boys’ 9-10 age group. He claimed gold in the javelin (81 feet, 11 inches), 400 (1:09.57) and 800 (2:40.87).

Spencer Callahan was a co-state champion in the boys’ 11-12 high jump (4-5), and Aiden Wardell won bronze in the boys’ 7-8 shot put (12-33⁄4).

The Gallentine family had a pair of javelin state champs in the girls’ division, as Olivia Gallentine won the 11-12 group (51-7) and Morgan Gallentine was the gold medalist in the 15-16 group (80-10).

At regionals, the top three place winners in each event will advance to nationals in North Carolina later this month.

Lynx Youth Track Club

Regional Qualifiers

(Age Group/Place At State)

BOYS

Aiden Wardell (7-8) — Shot Put (3rd), 400 (6th), 800 (4th).

Collin Wardell (7-8) — Shot Put (5th).

Justin Callahan (9-10) — Javelin (1st), 400 (1st), 800 (1st).

Holden Moore (9-10) — High Jump (6th), Javelin (7th).

Dane Hansen (9-10) — 1,500 (6th).

Spencer Callahan (11-12) — High Jump (T-1st).

Brayden Moore (11-12) — High Jump (4th), Javelin (4th).

Nathan Wardell (11-12) — 1,500 (8th), 3,000 (8th).

GIRLS

Briley VanDeer (7-8) — Long Jump (4th), 100 (8th).

Bailey VanDeer (7-8) — Javelin (4th).

Olivia Gallentine (11-12) — Javelin (1st), Discus (4th).

Morgan Gallentine (15-16) — Javelin (1st), Discus (5th).

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