By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
PARK SLOPE — No more running in the halls.
A track meet of massive proportions was held this past Saturday at the Park Slope Armory, and young Brooklyn competitors who used to race in the halls of their schools got to show their stuff on the armory’s state-of-the-art six-lane, 200-meter track.
More than 650 young runners representing 36 teams from across the Metropolitan area came to compete, including nine New York Road Runners Mighty Miler groups.
“Kids coming from East New York used to run in the halls,” said Megan King, spokesperson for the Prospect Park YMCA. “And kids from Brooklyn schools like P.S. 107 have never had home track meets. They always had to travel to Staten Island or other places.
The ancient armory – transformed by a $16 million renovation in 2010 and operated by the Y — “is an incredible gem in Park Slope,” King said. “It’s a full track with six lanes, eight laps to the mile, with four multi-purpose courts in the center. The kids feel so incredibly important.”
Many of the running clubs competing in Saturday’s event also lack training space. Mike Rosson, the Staten Island Express Track Club’s assistant coach, told King that his team runs laps in the gym of the local CYO (Catholic Youth Organization).
Another area team, the Metro Eagles, trains in Roy Wilkins Park in Queens and, when the weather is poor, in the hallways of I.S. 8.
“This was the first meet for some of our athletes. When they walked through the doors and entered the armory they felt important,” Assistant Head Coach Rhonda Hopkins said in a statement. “This sport is about heart, and the opportunity to compete in this arena encourages the team to work harder.”
“We’ve been racing with some of these teams for a long time,” 13 year-old Kimaya of the Metro Eagles told the Y. “We’ve made a lot of friends on the other teams, and even though we’re competing, we remind each other to never give up.”
This was the second such “mega-meet” at the armory. An even larger event – with more than 1,000 participants — took place mid-February to open the 2012 Park Slope Armory YMCA Winter Track & Field Series.
“Our first track event was an enormous success,” said Associate Executive Director Erika Rautenstrauch. “This achievement certainly was in large part to our dedicated staff, who were as excited as many of our athletes; the cooperation from the New York Road Runners; and our supportive community. It was gratifying to see our YMCA mission being fulfilled in one event, all under one roof.
“The event has allowed us to establish base track records for the Park Slope Armory YMCA,” she added, “records that our young participants are already eager to break.”
The series will continue through the end of February with one youth and two master’s meets. Athletes can register for the upcoming events at www.coacho.com.