Restoring tradition: Bringing back all-comers track meets |

Restoring tradition: Bringing back all-comers track meets

Mark Hoefer

Track and field has been an important part of the South Shore community since 1968. The summer Olympics were scheduled for October in Mexico City, and in order for the United States track and field athletes to train and qualify for the team, an all-weather track (one of the first in the nation) was constructed at Echo Summit, to simulate the 7,350-foot elevation of Mexico City.  

For those wanting a more in-depth look into the Mexico City Olympics, there is a great book by Bob Burns, called “The Track in the Forest.” Soon after the Olympic Trials, the track was cut into sections and moved to the South Tahoe Middle (at the time Intermediate) School campus.

The desire of track athletes, especially distance runners, to train at elevation continued after the 1968 Olympics, and the Tahoe area continued to attract runners from around the world.  Jobs were plentiful, and the cost of living was relatively inexpensive. Around that time, with a new all-weather track available for use, a group of runners would meet up and compete weekly on the track.  

Soon after, a summer series of “All-Comers” track meets started up. On Thursday evenings, runners ranging in age from three to 73 (probably even older) and all ability levels; from Olympians to “joggers,” would show up and race various distances ranging from 50 meters to the two mile. At their peak in the 1980s, early 1990s, these meets attracted between 150 and 200 runners. The serious, and not-so-serious competitors all had a fun time.

In an effort to revive these fun events, a couple of locals, Austin Angell and Dave Norton, with help from the TR4CK (Track Restoration for Community and Kids), a nonprofit started by the Haase-Hug-Holmes families back in the early 2000s to raise monies for reconstruction of the then deteriorated track, decided to put on two all-comers track meets this summer.  

On July 28, and Aug. 11, the track came to life again with runners and long jumpers competing in the thin-air of South Lake Tahoe. Good Times were had by both the competitors and volunteers.  

Between the two days, there were a total of approximately 40 participants. They competed in running events that included the 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600 meters, along with the long jump.

“We love seeing the smiles on the faces of the younger runners as they cross the finish line,” Angell said, “and I have been working with the middle school cross country and track athletes for over 50 years.”

The crew is looking forward to returning next summer to run the meets, and hoping that a couple more meets might be added and even more participants will join in the fun.

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