CHANNAHON – In 2008, Minooka track and field and cross country coach Kevin Gummerson had an idea.
He wanted to get the community involved and teach them about the sport of track and field. So, he started the Indian Pride Track Meet, an event that has grown since its inception.
For five years, the Indian Pride meet was held three times a year at Minooka High School's track, and the attendance steadily increased. The last two years, it has been held twice there and once at Channahon Community Park, where the Indians' high school cross country team hosts its meets. Gummerson estimated that 30-40 people showed up for last year's final meet at Community Park.
The attendance more than doubled in Monday's final meet of the year, as the participants numbered in the nieghborhood of 100, ages ranging from preschool to parents to even some grandparents.
Gummerson is more than pleased with what the event has become.
"We've had a better and better turnout every year," Gummerson said. "When we started it in 2008, we pretty much just had kids from our track team and their parents coming out here. Then, it started spreading through word of mouth that this was a pretty fun thing to do, and more and more people started coming.
"We don't care who comes out here. Of course, we are partial to people in our school district, but we welcome everybody. We have had plenty of people from the Morris area come over here, Shorewood, areas like that. It's just a fun way for people to get together and enjoy the sport of track and field."
In the events at Minooka, the meets involve both running and field events, such as high jump or long jump. In the final event Monday, there was a 20-meter toddler dash for youngsters 3 and below, a 200-meter hay bale dash for kids ages up to 10, an open mile for everyone, a 3x1-mile relay and a 3-mile hay bale run. The distance runs were set on the scenic Community Park course and featured a few banks of five or six hay bales to hurdle, just to add to the fun.
"We want to get kids out here and enjoy the sport of track and field," Gummerson said. "It's a great sport. There are tons of opportunities for kids to try all kinds of sports in the summertime, so we thought, why not track and field? It offers something for just about everyone. As long as they want to compete, we will find an event for them. There aren't too many kids that try it and don't find something they like."
And, they get them started early. One runner, Keegan Lundin – the 3-year-old son of Minooka boys track coach Nick Lundin – said he was there to "run. I am fast, like Lightning McQueen." Then he went out and proved it by placing second in the 200-meter hay bale run.
But places are an afterthought at the Indian Pride meet. What matters is the enjoyment for young and old alike.
"We've been coming to this for four years," said Mandy Fonck, mother of a 4-year-old and 10-month-old. "Caleb, our 4-year-old, has been coming to this since he was 17 months. He was running around the house all the time practicing. One good thing is that the kids sleep very well on the night after the meet is over."