HERSHEY, Penn. – Jaslyn Gardner of Enterprise edged out Bettina Winkler of Michigan and Iantha Wright of New York in the 13-14-year-old girls 100-meter dash to capture the National Championship at the Hershey National Track and Field Meet.
Gardner finished with a time of 12.84. All three girls were within five-hundredths of one second. Jaslyn was the top qualifier for the event and despite having competed in prior national meets had never faced the competitors in this meet.
“I really did not know how the race was progressing,” Gardner said. “The other two girls (Winkler and Wright) were not next to me. And I was focused on running my race and looking straight ahead.”
Gardner had just competed the prior weekend in the National Junior Olympics where she placed eighth in the 100-meter dash in that meet. She is a member of the Quick Feet Track Club in St. George.
In total, six youth represented Utah in the Hershey National Finals for track and field. Taylan Whitehead, of Santa Clara, an independent (not affiliated with any club), was also the top qualifier in her event, the 9-10-year old girls 50-meter dash. However Taylan finished third in the event with a time of 8.00, a full half-second off her qualifying time.
“Taylan started slower than she normally does,” said Curtis Whitehead, Taylan’s father. “At the midway point, she was sixth. But she closed well and was able to push to third. Another 10 meters and she would have caught the other two.”
The 10-year-old provided alternate explanations for her slow start. “It was very humid there, plus I ate a lot of chocolate that day”.
“The Hershey Nationals Meet is more informal than other competitions,” said Justin Redfearn, coach of the Quick Feet Track Club. “Sprinters are not allowed to come out of blocks and the spiked shoes that the competitors are normally wearing are also forbidden. For those who train coming out of blocks, those first few steps can win or lose a race.”
To qualify for the Hershey National Track Meet, the competitors compete in local and state meets. The results are then entered into a regional database. Utah is in the same region as Hawaii, California, Arizona and Nevada. The competitor with the top time/measurement for each event is selected for Nationals. However, each state is also guaranteed a certain number of spots. Utah is guaranteed four spots.
Emme Leavitt, also a member of the Quick Feet Track Club, placed fourth in the 11-12-year old girls 800-meter run with a time of 2.27.76. Matt Kitchen, from St George, finished fifth in the boys 13-14 softball throw with a mark of 201.1.5 feet.
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