Track reunion gives alumni opportunity to compete
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Last Friday and Saturday, April 4-5, Emporia State hosted their annual track reunion, inviting alumni from the past track and field families, as well as the Emporia community, to meet current athletes and compete in some events.
“It’s kind of a reunion. (It’s) also just a way to stay connected with old teammates,” said Mike Giardine, a hammer thrower who graduated in 2000. “(It’s) also to encourage the younger athletes, encourage recruiting, and just to support the track and field program at Emporia State.”
Starting with a dinner Friday night, the current track team was able to meet with about 25-30 of ESU’s former stars, like Giardine, who holds the record for the men’s hammer throw. The furthest traveler was Robert Wilmott from New Jersey, who was also a men’s hammer thrower.
“The ultimate goal is to get alums to come back and meet our current athletes,” said Steve Blocker, head track and field coach. “That way, we can share in more of that special club if you will.”
Some of the alums in attendance this weekend also competed in throwing, though they did not place amongst the student athletes.
“They threw the discus or the shot-put,” Blocker said. “One guy was…almost 40. But they still did okay. They beat people. They’re still capable of going out and doing it.”
Though in the past the reunion has not been entirely a planned event, there are certain alums who work to ensure that the reunion is both successful and fun. Giardine and several other hammer throw alums have been coming back to watch and support the track team for roughly the last five years.
“The first two years we did this, it was just an unorganized thing where a couple of people decided we wanted to come back and watch a track meet because we missed it after all these years,” Giardine said. “Then we got together and said, ‘Why don’t we try to do something more formal?’ Make it official and bring back as many people from all different class and ages.”
At the track meet hosted by the university on Saturday, alums tailgated and grilled for the athletes, enjoying the sunshine with old friends and current runners, jumpers and throwers of the track team.
“The fact that they still felt it was important to come back and show their support and meet us athletes really speaks a lot about how much our program has stayed with them,” said Carolyn Wallace, junior elementary education major.
Wallace, a long distance runner, said she met a distance runner alum at the team dinner who graduated in the 60s, back when ESU didn’t even have women’s sports. She said it was crazy to think about how much has changed from then to now and feels glad that she gets to be a part of such a tight-knit family. On Saturday, Wallace placed 40 in the women’s 1500 meter run.
At the meet, the women finished third overall, underneath UMKC and Missouri Southern, and the men finished fifth. Wallace said the team did “pretty solid.”