Budget cuts force end of annual track meet

DOWNEY - For 49 years, boy and girl fourth and fifth graders competed fiercely in their divisions for bragging rights in a variety of athletic contests in the annual Carnival of Champions held at the playing fields and gym of Warren High School. Track events included the 50- and 100-meter dash, standing long jump and the 440-yard relay. Gym events included baskets-in-one-minute contests and the like.The meet was run mostly, in addition to district staff, by motivated, hard-working volunteers - former teachers, staff and administrators. You could see them firing the starting gun, blowing the whistle, patrolling the rows and rows of participants sporting their team colors as cameras snapped their poses and unguarded moments and the stands thundered with the whoops and hollers of family members just having a jolly good time. None of that will be happening this year, this April. The main culprit is, of course, the budget axe and the tight economic conditions that have stopped many heretofore taken-for-granted perks and pleasures, including this one, cold in their tracks. For now, the memory is sure to remain of, among other things, Rio San Gabriel's unbelievable 11-year winning streak, broken by Old River School in the school year 2008-09, only to regain it last year, and the culture change when the Character Counts message reverberated throughout the district, on the playing fields and beyond. Longtime meet coordinator Phil Davis, who now runs Downey Adult School as part of his additional duties as director of support programs, says he won't miss the hard work that went with the fun-filled meet, but the cessation (brief or long, no one can tell) of the program leaves him "very disappointed." Superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty's knee-jerk comment on the issue was a dismissive "I'd rather not talk about it. I don't really want to dwell on it." Then, with utmost reluctance, she said: "Another problem was we couldn't line up a sufficient number of people to run it."

********** Published: April 7, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 51