Community sports: Records fall in Hershey's meet finale

Organizer hopes to conduct similar meets

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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The final Hershey's Track and Field Program Washington State Meet produced three records on Saturday at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver.

If meet director James Welch has his way, this meet also will be the first step toward something lasting.

"Oh, my gosh, it was amazing," Welch said of the meet, which included 503 participants from around Washington who qualified for state at local meets.

"The whole day was just perfect."

Izaiah Fields from Lakewood established state records in both the 100- and the 200-meter dashes for boys ages 13-14. His times were not available. The previous records were 11.71 in the 100 meters and 23.99 in the 200. Kayla Johnson from Federal Way broke the girls 9-10 softball throw state record. Her mark was not available. The previous record for her age division was 128 feet, 2¾ inches.

Two participants from Vancouver won events during the state meet.

Drew Lobis won the 400 meters for girls 11-12. Emmanuel Huang won the 100 meters for boys 11-12 and was second in the 400. Their times were not available.

Those who placed first at the state meet and have the best mark in the region have the chance to be invited to the North American Hershey's Track and Field Games, championships, which will be held for the last time on Aug. 2 in Hershey, Pa.

For the Hershey program, Washington is in a region with Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, plus four Canadian provinces.

Other second-place finishers from Clark County were Rachel Blair in the 800 and the 1,600 for girls ages 13-14 and Hannah Polkinghorn in the 50-meter dash for girls ages 9-10.

After 37 years, this summer marks the last time the Hershey chocolate company is staging its track and field program for boys and girls ages 9-14. Instead, the company is partnering with USA Track and Field on a new youth track and field initiative.

But Welch said his Vancouver-based One Team Kids organization plans to host a similar state championship meet in Vancouver next summer. He said that after Saturday's meet an initial meeting that included longtime Hershey's program volunteers indicated interest in forming a track and field program to replace the Hershey's local and state meets.

Welch said the plan is to host a state meet in late June or early July in 2015. He said it's likely all of the same events Hershey meets included — softball throw, standing long jump and foot races — will continue, with perhaps some added events.

"The goal is to make it bigger and better next year," he said.