Huffing and puffing to victory

In spring of 1975, the first Vista Track Meet brought together elementary school students from across the Claremont Unified School District to compete in an array of events.

Thirty-seven years later, the event is still going strong. Duane K. Jackman—former Vista del Valle principal and creator of the event—was able to preside over yet another competition on Friday, May 25.

Over 300 children hailing from fourth through sixth grade showed up for the 9 a.m. opening ceremony, ready to “bring it” and clad in T-shirts representing their respective schools. The colorful tees celebrated local K-6 sites Mountain View, Oakmont, Vista del Valle, Condit, Sycamore, Sumner/Danbury and Chaparral.

The students’ athletic prowess had been vetted during tryouts held at each school. The events included the 60- and 100-yard dashes; the 300-yard run; the 300- and 1200-yard relay; the softball throw; the standing broad jump and the running long jump.

Ethan Hunt felt “kind of nervous” at the outset of his events, which found the 9-year-old competing in the 60 and 100-yard dashes against fourth graders from several schools. Despite his apprehension, Ethan snagged second place in both races.

“It felt good to be like an Olympic runner,” he said.

Wins always feel good, especially considering that many of the students practiced long and hard beforehand. At Vista del Valle, for instance, Principal Dave Stewart began training with his students 5 weeks in advance of the meet.

Beyond victory, however, each student’s teacher and principal has made a concerted effort throughout the year to emphasize the importance of sportsmanship.

Mountain View student Joseph Lowe didn’t place in his events, but he kept his eye the prize, aiming to “be a good sport.”

He enjoyed mingling with the other students and pushing himself to do his very best.

“I did pretty good, even though I knew there were people that were faster than me,” he said.

That’s just the kind of attitude Mr. Stewart seeks to instill in his students.

“It’s about having your best be your top priority, win or lose, and also doing your best to help those around you be better,” he said.

The fact the track meet is held at Vista del Valle feels like a happy stroke of fate for Mr. Stewart, who is in his first year as principal. Before his career in education, Mr. Stewart was a track and field athlete, who trained for the US Olympic team with his friend and Olympic decathlete Bryan Clay.

Mr. Stewart, who believes firmly in the “healthy body, healthy mind” principle (sports and activity help fuel success) didn’t even know the event existed when he first interviewed for his position with CUSD. It was a delightful bonus, he said.

“It was kind of a match made in heaven,” he said. “Half of my life has been spent doing track and field, so it kind of meshes that former part of my life with what I’m doing here.”

Duane Jackman, who created the event 37 years ago, enjoys the opportunity the track meet provides to get in touch with an important part of his life. The retired principal noted many parents in attendance were part of the intra-district event when they were children, bringing true meaning to the phrase full-circle.

“That’s kind of nice, seeing parents here who ran in the race as kids,” he said.

Recently retired principal Ley Yeager was warmly greeted by students and staff as he helped organize students before and after events.

The parents who showed up to cheer on their kids patently enjoyed themselves as well.

“It’s so nice to have all the different schools here working together,” said Marsha Valencia, whose fourth grader was participating at the meet. “They’re competing together, but it doesn’t feel like a competition.”

—Sarah Torribio



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