PLAINFIELD, NJ - Amaia Onque-Shabazz and Vincent Rizzi each set local track and field records last week.
Hundreds of young athletes gathered under partly sunny skies and cool temperatures for the 90th annual Rotary Track and Field Meet, held last Wednesday 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 II and several meets canceled 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 just over 250 students registered for the meet. “This year we have students from North Plainfield Middle School and College Achieve Charter School; Valley View School in Watchung; and Maxson Middle School, Queen City Academy, Plainfield Academy AAS, and Koinonia Academy of Plainfield,” said meet director Michael Townley. “Plainfield Athletic Director John Quinn was instrumental in getting the athletes from Maxson registered for our event.”
Records were set in two events this year, the 800 meter and the high jump. The new record for the 800 meter run for girls in Group 1 was set by Amaia Onque-Shabazz, whose time of 02:37.19 topped the previous record of 02:40.48, set in 2010 by Aniyah Tyler of Queen City Academy.
The record-setting effort in the high jump was the result of Vincent Rizzi of Valley View School, who cleared the crossbar at 5’10”, a full four inches over the record held since 1998 by Mitchell Webb of Maxson Middle School. Last year, Rizzi also set a record in his first Rotary Track and Field Meet. He has one more opportunity next year in the 14-year-old group.
“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. One athlete, the late Milt Campbell, Olympic decathlon champion, even went on to win medals in Olympic competitions” said Townley. “We look forward to seeing Vincent Rizzi achieve at least some of those accolades as he continues his athletic career.
“But even 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-six 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 competition by the 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 Club members and their adviser, Alexandra Pereira are just wonderful! We sincerely appreciate the support of the North Plainfield School District in allowing these students to participate in so many of our club’s events.”
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.
- College Achieve School - 7 first, 6 second, and 3 third place awards;
- Koinonia Academy - 1 first place award;
- Maxson Middle School - 7 first, 13 second, and 10 third place awards;
- North Plainfield Middle School - 22 first, 11 second, 3 third place awards;
- Plainfield's Queen City Academy - 1 first, 5 second, 7 third place awards;
- Plainfield Academy of Arts and Advanced Studies - 6 first, 7 second, 1 third place awards;
- Watchung's Valley View -8 first, 9 second, 9 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. “The groundskeepers at Hub Stine are just terrific,” said Tom Reedy, a Rotarian and the Clerk of Course for the running events. “They have the fields and track and tip-top shape every year, with tables and tents all set up and ready for us when we arrive. They even help us bring our materials down to the Awards Tent area. We truly appreciate their hard work.” The Hub Stine Athletic Complex is named for a longtime member and secretary of the Rotary Club.
The Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield expects to offer the 91st 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.
Interested in serving others? The Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield welcomes visitors to any weekly meeting, 12:15 PM on Wednesdays at Giovanna’s Restaurant in Plainfield. Come as the club’s guest and learn more about Rotary!