There’s more to a track meet than meets the eye.
I followed my children to the Betty Smothers K-Y Relays in May and got my first look at what is involved in an all-day meet.
They are long, but seasoned track parents are some of the most prepared people you’ll ever meet at a sporting event.
Dozens of tailgating tents dotted the lawn just outside the Port Allen High School track and field, where a few hundred spectators gathered, including former NFL running back Warrick Dunn, whose mother is the invitational’s namesake.
Parents carried ice chests packed with water bottles, sports drinks, fruit bowls and pickles.
Some of the tents had lounge chairs, cots and extra umbrellas.
Concession sales remained brisk throughout the eight-hour tournament. Strawberry- and green apple-flavored ice kept a steady line at the snowball stand.
Cheering parents and kids filled up on ballgame favorites — chilli cheese dogs, nachos, fried chicken wings, sodas and snacks.
Members of my children’s track club, the Westside Striders, met underneath a small tent where we spread our blankets and lawn chairs and did what everyone else did — waited for youngsters to run.
Our team’s coach cautioned runners to stay out of the sun and under the tents.
Of course, spending hours sitting under a tent with about a dozen children is not an easy feat.
My son and his fellow track buddies sometimes grew restless between relays. At one point, they split a bag of shelled peanuts and made up a contest to see who could crack the shells the fastest.
Sometimes team members, mostly ages 5 to 11, competed for seats. Some rotated between sitting on lawn chairs or on the ground. My 10-year-old son tried for the chair with the cup holder.
My son and 8-year-old daughter competed in various relays. While they did not always place among the winners, they gave it their all, and my son managed to place first in the 80-meter hurdles. That earned him a big pat on the back from his teammates.
I will be the first to admit that when my children joined the track team, I was pessimistic. Other track parents told me it required a lot of dedication, hours in the stands, practices nearly everyday and a lot of preparation for meets.
They were telling the truth.
Some of our seasoned runners travel with their families to national meets, often preparing days in advance for long car trips and hotel stays.
But, as long as my children continue enjoying the track competitions, I don’t mind braving the heat and the daylong meets.
As long as the concession stands are open and I can put my hands on a strawberry snowball, sitting in the stands won’t be so bad.
Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.