There were plenty of numbers to view and ponder at Wednesday’s 5th annual Reindeer Games track meet at Polk County High School.
But only one of those mattered most to those in attendance – 1,700, the number of cans of food that Polk County head track coach Alan Peoples hoped the event would raise for Thermal Belt Outreach.
“The key to this meet is not winning, but raising food for the needy,” Peoples said. “I thought things were outstanding. All the kids felt good about bringing the food.”
And bring cans of food, the athletes and spectators did. Peoples estimated that more than 1,600 cans had already been collected by meet’s end, and with some cash donations and other sources of cash still to be counted, that goal of 1,700 looked to be easily surpassed.
The core purpose of the Reindeer Games is to serve as a canned food drive for Thermal Belt Outreach, with schools not only competing on the track, but also to see who can amass the most cans. Polk County, for the fifth consecutive year, did just that, topping 900 cans on Wednesday with more on the way.
That made Peoples doubly happy.
“I looked around right before we were supposed to begin and we had 50, 60 cans, maybe 75,” he said. “The kids had them all up at the school. They had 601 cans hidden in the back of an SUV.
“I think we’ll go over 1,000 by the time everything is in.”
In the meet, which featured a range of events both normally held and unique to the Reindeer Games, the T.C. Roberson girls and West Henderson boys won the team competition in the 14-school event, part of the official indoor track season. Polk County’s boys finished 3rd while the girls squad took 5th. Both squads have been hit hard by the flu bug that has raced through the high school in recent days, and Peoples felt the finishes were satisfactory given that.
“I hoped we’d be a good bit higher, but that was before last week and everyone became ill with the flu,” Peoples said. “We had to scratch at least a fourth of the events.”
But that really didn’t matter on a day when athletes dressed for fun, many clad in Christmas attire, and competed with a greater purpose than winning a meet.
“It was a lot of fun,” Peoples said. “I think everyone felt great about bringing in cans and sharing in the spirit of Christmas.”