Valley track meet draws athletes from around the country despite pandemic

Posted at 10:39 AM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 13:39:03-04

With sports starting to slowly trickle back, track and field made a big return this weekend right here in Arizona, as all eyes in the track and field world were on Poston Butte High School and the Desert Dream Last Hurrah Invitational.

"There has not been a single track meet since March 14th, and that was in Utah. For anyone high school, college or pro," said meet director Dave Shapiro.

Needless to say, the anticipation was high as the event reached its capacity of 500 athletes, coming from all over the country.

"We came driving in, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, that's the track, everyone's running,'" said Carlee Hansen who traveled from Utah. "It's exciting."

The three-day meet that wrapped up Saturday night was originally designed for high school athletes who missed out on a track and field season, but it blossomed into much more. The competition ranged from 13-year-olds to a 70-year-old throwing the javelin.

"I'm a senior this year, and so hearing that my season was canceled, it was really, really, really tough," said Idaho native Lexy Halladay. "Hearing about this meet, it gave us, I'm sure everyone who heard about it, something to train for and just motivation to get out the door and keep training and just, you know, have something to look forward to."

It also featured the fastest 44-year-old woman in the world in the 400 meters race, Cynthia Monteleone, who took the gold in the 40- to 44-year-old event at the World Masters Athletics Championship in Poland last year. She flew in from Maui just to compete against girls less than half her age.

"To get in here with some 17-year-olds is actually a really great thing for me," said Monteleone. "I love that instead of putting me separately, they just threw me right in with the young group."

Of course, there is the COVID-19 component with many people coming from all over the country as cases surge here in Arizona. Masks were required when not competing and warming up, temperatures were checked at the gate, starting blocks and equipment were sprayed down with sanitizer, among other measures in place.

"I've been social distancing," said Halladay. "We've all been hopefully doing our parts and even like coming here, you know, just wearing the mask when we're around people and just being very grateful to have the meet. And so doing our part to make sure that it's worth it and not spreading the virus."

Meet directors at all levels surely watched the three-day event unfold, perhaps looking for a blueprint for a path forward.

"This is a very special night, we're making history here," said Monteleone. "I'm really excited to be part of that history, but I have noticed that everyone's been really respectful to each other. They all really adhere to the face coverings and the social distancing, so I feel like this is a great chance for the rest of the country to realize that we can have track meets again."