Twenty six 7th graders and twenty six 8th graders spent Thursday and Friday at the state track meet working at the field events. I had the idea during my first year teaching at Knoxville. While we were at a rules meeting in Ankeny, I talked to one of the directors of the Boys’ Athletic Association and asked him who’s responsible for helping out at the state meet.
He said they were actually looking for a group, so I volunteered Knoxville Middle School. The first couple of years it was only the boys’ state meet, so I took the same group Friday and Saturday, taking care of the starting blocks, selling programs outside the stadium, and acting as “runners” inside the press box.
Once Drake renovated their stadium, the athletic unions decided to combine the boys’ and girls’ meets into three days. They then asked us to work only the field events: raking the long jump pit, putting up the bar at the high jump, and returning the shot put and discus to the athletes.
They usually request about 25 athletes, but I got 26 7th graders and 27 8th graders to go. Thursday is when the 7th graders went, and their reactions are usually the best. The first time they put the bar up to 6’10” or watch someone throw 50 feet in the shot put, their eyes and faces make it all worth it.
They see athletes at the absolute pinnacle of their sports, athletes who go on to division I universities, participate in the Olympics (Lolo Jones), even play in the NBA (Harrison Barnes).
It does make for very long, hot days, but again, their reactions make it all worth it. Nearly every varsity runner was in their position only a few years ago, and in certain situations the very year before. It’s always good to expose students and athletes to success. They need to see people who were normal middle school students now excelling in academics and athletics. They need to see proof that these athletes really aren’t that different, they’re just willing to do the work and sacrifice the time it took to get there.