Ilhyung Lee’s daughter is a member of the Gentry Middle School track and field team.
Track and field is part of middle school athletics in Columbia. On Thursday, April 10, the seventh-grade teams from the area schools gathered at Battle High School for the season opening meet.
Under a late afternoon sun that broke through overcast skies just before the beginning of the meet, 12- and 13-year-old runners, throwers and jumpers in team uniforms competed for their respective schools.
For Emily Litton, a seventh-grader at Gentry Middle School, it was a day of firsts. Litton participated in her very first track and field meet, competing in both a track (75 meter hurdles) and field (pole vault) event. The irony was not lost on interested spectators: A petite girl was entered in events that require vertical height — over the hurdles and an elevated bar.
When her Jaguars team began practices in early March, Litton had no prior experience in either event, but Gentry coaches asked her to take on the challenge.
Few girls in the seventh grade have experience in the pole vault, but those with a background in gymnastics (and the upper body strength that it entails) apparently have a smoother transition. Litton has been involved in gymnastics since she was 6 years old.
Her father, Paul Litton, admitted to some “nerves” watching his daughter vault into the air but acknowledged “she seems to really enjoy it.”
At the meet at Battle, Emily Litton came in second place in the pole vault, clearing the bar at 6 feet even.
Middle school track and field meets tend to have a festive feel, with parents, siblings and teammates cheering on the junior athletes.
An errant throw in the boys discus led some bystanders to shout, “Heads up!” Perhaps that was another first.
For seventh-graders in Columbia, it is a short season of only three meets, making each meet a special occasion.
The remaining two meets will be at the other high schools in Columbia — at Rock Bridge on April 22 and Hickman on May 1. Each meet is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.
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