PLAINFIELD, NJ - With an overcast sky and pleasantly cool temperatures, young student athletes from area middle schools and one elementary school gathered for the 91st Annual Rotary Track and Field Meet, held June 6 at the Hub Stine Athletic Complex in Plainfield.
Vincent Rizzi, holder of the Meet high jump records for boys ages 12 and 13, tried valiantly to best the 14 year old boys’ record in the same event. Despite his best efforts, the record remained at 5’ 10” for another year, but now is shared between Vincent of Valley View School in Watchung and Mitchell Webb from Maxson School in Plainfield. Mitchell set the record in 1999 and stood alone for nineteen years until Vincent’s strong effort in 2018.
“We had three athletes participate in the Boys Group 3 High Jump - Vincent Rizzi, Christopher Ntim, and Jordan Gelin. Both Christopher and Jordan had never participated in the high jump, but performed well and were excited to receive their medals,” said Meet Director Michael Townley. “These are just two examples of many first-timers who come out for our Track and Field Meet, hoping for and many times succeeding in earning an award.”
The Rotary Club’s meet has been held annually since 1924, with three year break during World War 2 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 nearly 250 students registered for the Meet. “This year we have students from North Plainfield Middle School; Valley View School in Watchung; and Cedarbrook Elementary School, Hubbard Middle School, Maxson Middle School, Queen City Academy, Plainfield Academy AAS of Plainfield,” said Meet Director Michael Townley. “We thank all of our area school districts for allowing their student athletes the opportunity to participate and to earn individual honors. We especially thank the Plainfield School District for allowing us free use of the beautiful Hub Stine Athletic Complex.”
“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 Meet Director Townley. “We look forward to seeing athletes like Vincent Rizzi achieve at least some of those accolades as they continue their athletic careers.
“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-seven 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 Roberta Smith, 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, with North Plainfield Middle School dominating with forty-eight total awards.
Cedarbrook Elementary School - 2 first, 2 second, and 5 third place awards;
Hubbard Middle School - 1 first, 1 second, and 15 third place awards;
Maxson Middle School - 10 first, 11 second, and 3 third place awards;
North Plainfield Middle School - 24 first, 18 second, 6 third place awards;
Plainfield Academy of Arts and Advanced Studies - 5 first, 3 second, 7 third place awards;
Queen City Academy - 2 first, 9 second, 10 third place awards;
Watchung's Valley View - 9 first, 5 second, 5 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 Brian Townley, a friend of Rotary 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 help us bring our materials down to the Awards Tent area and help us pack up at the end. 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 92nd Annual Track and Field Meet next year at the Plainfield site on June 5, 2019. The Meet is always held on the first Wednesday of June. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend and support the young athletes.