The Baytown Parks and Recreation Department’s summer track team offers something for everyone.
The Baytown Youth Summer Track program (ages 5-18) runs through the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation and runs throughout the summer against other city park teams including squads from Pasadena, La Porte, Beaumont and Galena Park.
Sometimes AAU teams will also participate in TAAF meets.
Caleb Franklin, the athletic manager for the park district, said meets are casual with no use of electronic time and all end with the regional meet in La Porte on July 13-16.
The top three in each event per age group then qualifies for the state meet – which takes place July 26-29 in College Station.
The track team will potentially open the season 9 a.m. next Saturday in Beaumont and then on June 4 they travel to La Porte for a 6 p.m. meet.
On June 6, the Baytown team will host its first meet of the season at Lee High School at 6 p.m.
The program has been around for about 15 years according to Franklin and the squad is centered first on having fun.
“It is participation first for competition,” Franklin said. “Anybody who joins the team gets to run. The big thing with that is since it’s not associated with a high school and it’s non-competitive, and even if you have a kid that doesn’t practice very much, they get to run. So that’s a little different.
“I like that we can give that opportunity to kids that may not run at all or play a sport in their entire life. We have a vast difference in talent to brand new kids to running at the state level.”
Despite the sport not being “competitive,” according to Franklin, last year that had 36 of 95 athletes qualify for state. This year there is about 70 athletes signed up.
“Track is a sport, more than anything, where you can set goals for yourself and reach them and it is really to quantify that because you can set times on that,” Franklin said. “I think most of our kids view it that way. They come to play. I like it that it gives kids the opportunity they normally wouldn’t get.”
Track head coach Leon Smith, who used to work for the city of La Porte, has coached the team for seven years.
“I enjoy coaching and I love helping kids,” Smith said. “This (current) group is the best I’ve ever worked with. They are very energetic and I don’t have to push them to do better. They want to do better.”