PLAINFIELD, NJ — Sun and smiles were the order of the day at the 89th Annual Rotary Track and Field Meet, held June 1 at the Hub Stine Athletic Complex in Plainfield.
The Rotary Club’s meet has been held annually since 1924, with three year break during World War 2 and several meets cancelled due to weather. Started as an organized meet for elementary school students, the meet shifted to the high school level to provide a friendly competition for area students. Later, when high schools began competing through a statewide system of athletic events, the Rotary meet shifted to the middle school grades.
Invitations went out to area schools in early May, with nearly 300 students registered for the meet. Due to a scheduling snafu, two schools were unable to attend and one arrived late, after the coaches and athletes walked to the meet. “We were unable to wait for them to arrive and started the meet on time,” said Meet Director Michael Townley. “With buses scheduled for specific pick-up times, it was imperative that we stayed on schedule. The good news is that a number of the late arrivals were still able to compete in their scheduled events, winning twenty-five awards and even setting one new record.”
Several of the judges were able to re-arrange the order of events to accommodate the late arrivals. One beneficiary of that juggling was Cadene Rose of Maxson Middle School. Cadene set a record in the long jump for twelve year old girls with a jump of 15’ 3.5”, breaking the previous record of 15’ 2” held by Danielle Jensen of Valley View School that stood since 2004.
Another record-setting effort occurred in the high jump, where Vincent Rizzi of Valley View School cleared the crossbar at 5’ 4”, a full four inches over the record held since 2002 by Kenny Miller of Maxson Middle School.
“Over the years, we have had the privilege of hosting a number of young athletes who have gone on to set state and national records and win medals in Olympic competitions, including the late Milt Campbell, Olympic decathlon champion,” said Meet Director Townley. “More recently, Nicole Sims and Kim Hicks were two outstanding athletes who achieved state championships in the shot put and went on to even more awards.
“But more important than hosting future greats is our ability to give any interested student athlete the opportunity to compete against their peers, sometimes for the very first time. I have been doing this for over twenty-five years, and one of the joys of that long history is meeting young men and women who tell me that they competed in our Meets when they were in high school or middle school. Even in their thirties and forties and older, their smiles are just as big as the day they competed at the Rotary Track and Field Meet.”
Members of the Club and their friends offered their services as officials and judges for an afternoon of friendly but determined competition by the young 12, 13 and 14 year-old athletes. They were supported by members of the Interact Club at North Plainfield High School who also filled key roles, such as judges, timers, and field event assistants. Interact is the youth-based service club sponsored by Rotary International.
“We are so grateful to our family members and friends and our Interact Club members who come out to help us with this youth service project,” said Ravenell Williams, president of the Rotary Club. “There are so many positions to fill that we could not do it without their help. And our Interact members are just wonderful!”
Medals were awarded to first, second and third place finishers in all events except the relays, where ribbons were awarded to second and third place finishers. All participating schools took home medals or ribbons.
North Plainfield Middle School - 27 first, 8 second, 12 third place awards;
Plainfield's Queen City Academy - 1 first, 5 second, 2 third place awards;
Plainfield Academy of Arts and Advanced Studies - 2 first, 2 second, 6 third place awards;
Maxson Middle School - 12 first, 11 second, and 2 third place awards;
Watchung's Valley View -10 first, 19 second, 3 third place awards.
The Track and Field Meet was held at the Hub Stine Athletic Complex in Plainfield through the cooperation of the Plainfield Board of Education. “We have to commend the groundskeepers at Hub Stine for their help,” said Tom Reedy, a Rotarian and the chief judge of the high jump events. “Every year they go above and beyond to prepare the fields for us and to help us bring in our materials and set up for the events. We sincerely appreciate their hard work.” Coincidentally, the complex’s namesake was a longtime member and secretary of the Rotary Club.
The Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield expects to offer the 90th Annual Track and Field Meet next year at the Plainfield site on the first Wednesday of June. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend and support the young athletes.