Fresh off their victory last month in the 400-meter relay at the Illinois Elementary School Association meet, four soon-to-be eighth-graders from Fox River Grove Middle School were back in action Sunday at the Cary-Grove High School track.
The girls joined almost 70 other young athletes for the Hershey's Track and Field Games, put on by the Cary Park District.
"It's good practice," 13-year-old Annie Psenka said. "It gets us comfortable for next season."
Psenka along with Alyssa Abrams, 13, Linnea Yokup, 12, and Annika Cowen, 13, easily breezed to a first-place finish Sunday, qualifying for the state meet next month in Joliet. A top two finish there would qualify them for the next round, where they'd compete for a spot in the North American Final in Hershey, Penn. That event draws young athletes ages 9 to 14 from the United States and Canada.
Sunday's meet preceded the start of a twice-per-week summer camp where kids can brush up on their track and field techniques for events like hurdles, shot put and triple jump. Many of the students, like the Fox River Grove relay team, competed Sunday and planned to attend the camp, which starts Monday.
Chaille Gleason, the track camp coordinator for the Cary Park District, said she was pleased with the turnout for the first-year meet. According to Hershey, the games are the largest youth sports event in North America, with local meets across the U.S. and Canada. Cary's relatively small pool of competitors meant a good chance of qualifying for the Joliet round.
"Almost everybody today is top two in something," Gleason said.
Wade Abrams, 8, followed in his sister's footsteps, running the 50-meter dash and finishing in second place in the youngest age category.
His mom, Jennifer Abrams, said the meet was a nice chance to get the whole family to the track and give her son a chance to compete.
"I think this is fantastic," Abrams said. "Especially because it's so close to home."
Batavia and Naperville park districts also organized local meets in May. The state competition will be July 7 in Joliet.