The first leg of relay runners are staggered in their starting positions. The pistol is fired, sending the runners flying around the track. The crowd is on their feet, roaring, cheering. The runners bank around the turn, sprinting down the line where the second leg of runners are waiting. The first runners approach, handing off the batons to the second leg of runners already in motion.
This is not the Olympics. It’s the Running Room 43rd Annual Indoor Games.
The morning starting out with 13 Talmud Torah student athletes spanning grades 3-6, 2 teachers/coaches, and a handful pf parents gathering in the giant yellow Universiade Pavilion better known as the Butterdome. We got first pick of bleacher seating and spread out, making ourselves comfortable. Ms. Kovacs pulled out a small backpack and pulled out piles of T-shirts repurposed from the old junior high and shorts for the student athletes to change into. They came back looking like a real team, sporting matching black T-shirts with blue stripping down the sleeves, emblazoned with the fierce images of the TT lion and Torah scroll. Coffee was located (for the adults) and the kids started digging into their first set of snacks.
Large contingents from the other schools started to arrive in droves, and soon the bleachers were packed to the brim with elementary school students from across Edmonton. The student athletes represented a diverse group, spanning all races, cultures, and sizes (some looked like they could be teenagers!). Some runners wore hijabs, and others, full length skirts. The runners poured out onto the track for a “warmup” sprint before the day’s events kicked off. Their nervous excitement was palpable.
Our first event was the mixed 8X200 meter relay. I was glad that Moreh Ari was wearing a pink shirt, so we could follow when their group of 56 runners (8 runners/school X 7 schools/heat) were herded from one staging area to the next. When it was finally time for their heat, the runners lined up on the track like pros, and the rest of the TT kids, parents, and Ms. Kovacs moved up to the barricade to cheer on each runner as they came by. I had only heard about the legendary speed of “Grade 6 Jack”, but let me tell you, the rumors are true! We finished 3rd fastest out of the 13 schools that participated in the relay.
All in all, 13 student athletes from our small school completed in the 8X200 mixed relay, the girls and boys 200 meter dash, the boys 800 meter run, and the girls and boys long jump. Shai came in 3rd in the girls long jump, and Jack placed 1st in the boys long jump! It was so exciting watching these kids compete with confidence and hold their own.
It was heartwarming to see these kids come together, build community, cheer each other on, and celebrate each other’s successes. I have no doubts that they created life-long memories, and I hope many are inspired to continue their journeys in track and field. Huge thank you to Ms. Kovacs and Moreh Ari for giving their time, training our student athletes (over months of recesses), and coordinating such a fun event!
By: Nomi Steen, Parent of a Gr. 3 student & TT Board Member