An excellent athletic program designed for any kid
Around 150 local kids took advantage of a visionary new athletic program this summer. Draper Track and Field held its inaugural season at the Corner Canyon High School track, exposing kids ages eight to 14 to a wide variety of track and field events. For eight weeks, kids rotated through pole vault, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin and running events from the 100 meters to the mile. Draper Track and Field is a much needed program for kids who want to do athletics, but may not necessarily fit into the typical sports model. Not every kid plays football, soccer, basketball or baseball. And the reality is that with only one high school in Draper, there just is not room for all of the athletic talent the city holds. So what about the rest of the kids who want to compete, but don’t know where to go?
Utah native Nan Kennard, who recently moved here from Boulder, Colorado, is the founder of Draper Track and Field. Her running accomplishments are legendary. She was an All-American in the steeplechase and three-time national champion as a member of the cross country team at BYU, Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon, and professional runner. It would be safe to say that Kennard has the running chops, but it really came by chance. In high school, she was one of those kids left on the outside.
“I got cut from the high school basketball team when I was a freshman. I was sure that my world was crushed and that my life was over.”
She decided to run track instead. A mediocre sprinter in the ninth grade, it was not until her junior year that she started to catch fire when she switched to longer distances, capping it off with a blistering state record 800m time of 2:11.
Fortunately for Draper, Kennard is bringing all of her considerable experience and expertise to this new track program and she has a long-term vision for the youth here, hoping to create a feeder program for the high school, where kids are exposed to all events and can have the time to figure out what they are good at. As she astutely points out, Utah valley and Davis County both have strong feeder programs for their high schools and so when kids start their freshman year, they have a huge advantage over kids from the Salt Lake valley who come into high school with little, if any, experience. There is no district funded middle school program and until this year, no where for kids to just try it out.
The summer program is meant to be a laid back season. The kids are encouraged to try all the events offered and they are measured at every practice so that they can see their improvement. Many kids started this season with a preconceived notion of what they could do, but oft times were surprised to discover other things that they loved and could do even better.
“Some kids who thought they would run distance found a love for jumping or throwing. Some really enjoyed sprinting, when they thought they would just throw. The synergy of the events kind of encouraged them to do something they hadn’t originally chosen,” Kennard explains.
The summer program has spilled into the fall with the creation of Race Cats, a cross country program Nan Kennard created for elementary children K-5. In the interest of keeping it fun, they do a few weekly practices where they play games that require a lot of running. Then in October there are races every week, ranging from a 1K to a 3K. It is a new program she hopes to establish at all of the elementary schools in the city.
It doesn’t stop there. Based on the many events the kids have tried during the summer session, Kennard is starting a competitive track team in the spring. Kids will be able to focus on their three favorite events and compete in track competitions in the area they think they might want to specialize in. It is a wonderful opportunity to gain experience in the track and field world before they step onto a high school campus.