GREENVILLE – Greenville’s youth track and field camp set another attendance record with 126 boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade attending the 16th annual five-day camp.
The 126 campers eclipsed last year’s previous record of 104. Just four years ago the camp had approximately 50 boys and girls, Greenville varsity track and field coach Bill Plessinger said.
“It was insane,” he said of this year’s event.
Along with Plessinger, 25 others helped lead the camp including Greenville assistant coaches Matt Levek and Stephanie Lind, Green Wave high school track and field athletes plus former Greenville athletes, including some college track and field athletes.
With the camp’s popularity exploding, Plessinger had to be more prepared than ever and also made last-minute adjustments to handle the volume of young athletes.
“I used to just crack it open on Saturday before the Monday camp and do the work,” he said.
In the five days of camp the youth learned about all the high school track and field disciplines with the exception of pole vault. This year’s instruction also expanded to include baton passing and relay events before concluding with a pool party.
“I can’t believe how well the fundamentals went over,” Plessinger said. “Coming out of starting blocks … I’ve seen high school runners that their coaches don’t make them go out of the starting blocks. We have kindergarteners going out of the starting blocks.”
While some people might be skeptical about what kids as young as kindergarteners can learn, Plessinger said, the camp has been extremely successful in its mission to educate and promote fun.
“Kids are like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you get to throw a big metal ball (in the shot put). That’s cool,’” Plessinger said. “So what they perceived as track being nothing but running now they see, wow, there’s other events that maybe I can do and be good at.”
As more and more kids have learned about all the opportunities in track and field, the number of athletes on Greenville’s track and field team also has increased.
“As the number of track kids at this camp goes up, the number of track kids on my track team goes up,” said Plessinger, whose high school team had 100 athletes this past season. “And a lot of it is because those kids that are on my track team went to this track camp. If that’s the case, in a few years we might have 150 on our track team.”
And not only are there more high school track and field athletes, Greenville is seeing athletes who are better prepared for high school competition.
“I think all the work we’re doing with these kids at this level – and I think the high school kids see that – it’s really starting to help us at the high school level,” Plessinger said.
Based on recent trends, Plessinger thinks next year’s camp could include 150 boys and girls. He’s already started preparing for the 2017 camp, which will be held June 26-30, and has high schoolers already volunteering to help again.