RUSSELLVILLE — Russellville track and field coach Sean Lovelace created the Russellville Summer Series to give athletes a chance to compete after their 2020 season was canceled due to coronavirus.
What he got was three successful nights of track and field competition at Russellville High School.
"It far exceeded our expectations," Lovelace said. "We were hoping for 100 kids a night. It ranged from 170-180 kids."
Friday night was the final of the three meets, which were run much like a typical high school meet.
Russellville is no stranger to hosting regular season track and field meets. The Indians were scheduled to host four meets during the spring season, including the Show-Me Conference meet and the Class 2 District 5 meet.
"The parents have been so appreciative and the coaches have been so appreciative that we put something like this on," Lovelace said. "That's the real reason that we do it. It's for these kids."
Russellville's meets have brought competitors from all across Missouri. Some have driven in from outside the state, such as Illinois and Nebraska, just to have a chance to compete in a meet this summer.
"The teams from out of state and all around the state of Missouri have kind of put Russellville on the map," Lovelace said. "It's just been a blast. They've been so appreciative and they thanked us for having a great meet."
Some athletes have shown up at each meet looking to set a personal record, or perhaps to break a school record. Others have shown up wanting to have a fun time.
A few of Friday's relays featured athletes from different schools passing the baton to each other. Some also featured boys and girls competing together on the same relay team.
"It's been fun, and that's what this is," Lovelace said. "It's a chance for them to compete and also a chance for them to have some fun."
And much like a typical track and field meet, Russellville posted results on a board near the concession stand, so athletes could see where they finished and what their distances and times were.
Jefferson City's Brenden Rozier won the boys javelin with a throw of 188 feet, topping his nearest competitor by 38 feet.
On the girls side, Capital City's Kiara Strayhorn won the high jump, clearing a height of 5 feet, 2 inches, while Blair Oaks' Emily Sporleder won the 800-meter run with a time of 2:26.31.
Toward the end of Friday's meet, a large crowd began gathering around Russellville's pole vault area.
KC Lightfoot, a two-time pole vault state champion at Lee's Summit, delighted the crowd by clearing heights that had not been seen at Russellville. The final height he cleared was 19-1.25, which exceeded his previous outdoor personal best of 18-8.75.
Lightfoot will be a junior this fall and during this past indoor track and field season, he cleared a height of 19-1.5, which is an Olympic qualifying standard.
"Anthony, his dad, contacted me and was asking if he could compete in this," Lovelace said. "Being the track fanatic that I am, I knew KC Lightfoot and what he has done. So I of course let him come out and exhibit.
"It was just amazing. Everybody here got to see what a 19-foot vault is. You can see it on TV, but seeing it in person is totally different."
Following the 4x400-meter relay, the final event of Friday's meet, Russellville hosted a 5K, giving an opportunity for athletes to compete in a cross country event.
When he looks back on the Russellville Summer Series, Lovelace said the thing he will remember the most is how appreciative the parents were, to watch their children have a chance to compete in a year that has been anything but normal.
"I can walk around the track and I'll have five parents that'll say, 'Thank you so much for putting this on,'" Lovelace said. "We did this so we can let the kids compete one more time."