There will be fun relays, athletes in Santa hats, decorations lining the Polk County High track.
But at the heart of Wednesday’s 5th annual Reindeer Games track meet at Polk County is a noble purpose, especially at this time of year.
“Basically, we do this to raise awareness for needy families,” said Polk County assistant track and field coach Jenny Wolfe. “We will collect cans of food for admission. There’s a competition between the schools to see who can collect the most cans for needy families.
“We’re undefeated in that. We’ve had the most cans every year. Everything we collect is then given to Thermal Belt Outreach.”
With pleasant weather in the forecast for Wednesday and such a worthy cause, Wolfe and everyone else associated with the meet, slated to start at 4 p.m., are hoping to see local fans turn out with plenty of cans. Those that do attend will have an opportunity to see some 10-15 area schools compete on Polk’s recently resurfaced track.
Those schools will be bringing both boys and girls squads to the meet, officially part of the indoor track season. With temperatures typically warmer in Columbus than in the mountain areas, the Reindeer meet is a popular trip. Polk’s facilities are also a draw.
“We’re one of the only schools with an automatic timing system,” Wolfe said. “Those are more accurate than hand timing, so it helps athletes qualify for the state meet.
“We’re a little milder here than up in the mountains, so they like coming down here. It’s a lot of work for us, but we don’t have to travel to a meet.”
The Reindeer Games, the brainchild of Polk assistant coach Amanda Simoncic, have also become well known for offering a different take on some events. The shot put and long jump, for example, will be contested as “relays,” with the top three individual efforts from each school used for an aggregate team total. The 4×200 meter relay, typically run only in the outdoor season, will be contested, and a relay will be held for those who usually only compete in the throwing events. In some relays, candy canes will be used for the runners’ batons.
“The athletes will be allowed to have holiday wear,” Wolfe said. “Some of the runners, for example, will be wearing Santa hats.”