ASHLAND — From Columbia to Brisbane to Sydney, Landon Bartel's experience with an international track meet was a mix of sightseeing, competition and friendships.
Bartel, a 17-year-old senior at Southern Boone High School, accompanied by his grandmother, Bernita Bartel, landed in Brisbane, where the competition was held on July 2, spending that day and next in "practice and experiencing Australia," he said.
The track meet was held from July 5-7. Landon participated in the triple jump, high jump, long jump and 110-meter hurdles events in the boys' 16-17 age group.
"I jumped my personal best of 6.46 meters, which rounded up to 21 feet, 3 inches, in long jump and came in second," Landon said. "It is just half an inch more than my previous best, but in long jump I take every half-inch I can get."
Although the meet was not as competitive as he expected an international track meet to be, the bonding and speed with which relationships formed was special for him.
"The bonding between soccer players happens quickly, so seeing everyone share their love for track and bond in such a short time was something I have not seen before, especially since track is such an individual sport," he said.
Organized by Down Under Sports, the event featured high school athletes from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. Athletes were divided into five groups. Each group had 21 athletes and 10 to 15 supporters.
Daniel Carolan, a recruiter at Down Under, said the recruitment of track athletes for meets is similar to a university recruitment.
"We look at stats, honors and the years. We also look at the results in state meets and occasionally county-wide competitions," Carolan said.
Landon cites his sixth place finish as a sophomore in a state high jump competition as a reason why Down Under recruited him. He received an invitation from the group after his performance.
To be able to attend the meet, Landon had to raise about $4,200. He was able to do so with the help of a supportive community and family in eight months. He started fundraising in November and continued doing so till the day he had to leave, June 30.
"It felt like a U.S. track meet in Australia, but I met a lot of people whom I hope to be able to keep in touch with. It was a short trip, but worth it," Landon said.
Bernita Bartel, 73, who accompanied her grandson to Australia, said this was the trip of a lifetime.
"I have followed him throughout his high school career and it was fantastic to see him compete against athletes internationally," she said.
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