Those who knew him say Conant High School boys track and field coach Ron Gummerson was the type of mentor who truly went the extra mile.
"He obviously could harness talent that students had, but he also was able to pull a great work ethic and determination and passion for the sport out of the students too," Gummerson's wife, Sheila, sad. "He was really there for the student, not especially for the win, and the kids responded to that."
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Gummerson died in May 2011 after a two-year battle with liver cancer, but his dedication to track and field will live on during the first Coach Ron Gummerson Summer Track Meet at 6 p.m. July 26 at Conant High School, 700 E. Cougar Trail, Hoffman Estates.
Money raised from the meet will go toward a college scholarship sponsored by the District 211 Foundation for track athletes graduating from Conant.
Gummerson's seven children, ages 24 to 39, came up with the idea around Thanksgiving last year. They all had an interest in sports growing up, and two followed their dad's footsteps by pursing careers as high school teachers and track and field coaches.
Kevin Gummerson, who coaches at Minooka High School, said his dad loved being at track meets, even after retiring in 2002 after a 29-year career at Conant High School.
"He just liked to watch people compete; it didn't matter what level," he said, adding that he hopes the upcoming event will give people who have never participated in track a chance to see if they like it.
Jack Ary, who taught and coached with Gummerson at Conant for about 30 years, said the two developed a friendship and organized summer track meets similar to the upcoming event through the Hoffman Estates Park District for about 25 years.
"Ron and I always had those meets because we felt like we wanted to expose kids to track and field," he said. "Little kids play soccer and Little League Baseball, but there wasn't anything for track. This meet is for everybody."
Ary couldn't estimate how many people might turn out for the event, but at least a hundred alumni, friends and runners from area schools are likely to show up. Dozens have already offered to volunteer at the meet. "Conant's like a big family. That's why people wanted to get involved in this and make it a good event. Everybody thought so much of Ron," Ary said.
Admission for the meet is $5 for adults for three events and $3 for children ages 10 and younger for three events. Registration begins at 5 p.m. at the door only and a half-hour all-ages clinic about how to use a starting block will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Field events include long jump and shot put and the nine running events range from a 20-meter dash for ages 3 and younger to a 1600-meter run. The last event will be a 4x100 family relay where all members must be related. Kevin said it's an event his dad would enjoy.
"He was a big believer in how important the family was," he said. "We thought that would be a fun way to end the meet."
Thanks to the help of a donor, a $1,000 college scholarship in Gummerson's name has already been awarded to a male track student at Conant based off grades, the coaches' recommendation and a short essay describing what one of Gummerson's favorite sayings -- "When I accept, I am" -- meant to him.
The Gummerson family is expecting the event to become an annual occurrence and hope it will fund a $1,000 scholarship for a deserving Conant track athlete each year.
"In the process of us wanting to further Ron's work here it's also, I think, helping others tap into the need to help other people," Sheila Gummerson said. "It is really a reminder to all of us to lend a helping hand."
Visit gummersontrack.com for information about the event or to donate.