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Why Colorado might produce most of the 2012+ Olympic Teams Forum Index -> Riff-Raff Hang Out

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Former FFL Champion
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PostPosted: 09/29/04 - 23:44    Post subject: Why Colorado might produce most of the 2012+ Olympic Teams
Don't Read This Column... by Chris Lear
If you think track is doomed in this country. If you believe kids think running is a four-letter word, or if you think track can't compete with soccer.

Because it can. And I've got the proof.

In the fall of 2000, Colorado Springs resident Steve Rex, an outdoor enthusiast and ex-triathlete, took his kids to a community cross-country race. A local youth soccer team, the Scorpions, showed up in uniform to run. Afterwards, Steve's eldest son Kobi, then seven, pleaded with his father to start a track team with cool uniforms like the Scorpions.

Steve decided to give it a go. He thought of the SNL skit of the Landshark and jokingly suggested the name to his son. Kobi and his buddy thought the name was awesome, and the Landsharks Track Club was born.

Next, Steve hired an artist to draw a logo and printed a slew of t-shirts to develop the esprit de corps that kids get from being on a team. He joined forces with local running stores like the Boulder Running Company and the Colorado Running Company to get shoe discounts for the participants. And he found willing volunteers, like Michelle Davis, a local elementary PE teacher, to help coach the kids twice a week during the five-week spring track season and fall cross-country season.

He expected 60 kids to show up at an informational meeting at his sons' charter school, the Classical Academy; 125 showed up.

Ever since that inaugural meeting, the program's growth has exceeded expectations. Last year 15 elementary schools, each with a different color Landshark 'team' t-shirt, got involved, and 1280 kids took part. Within the next five years, they plan on having an astounding 5,000 kids participating in their running series, and that's just in Colorado Springs. This spring, versions of the Landsharks also will be popping up in Evergreen, CO and Salt Lake City, UT.

So what makes it so successful?

"First off," Steve says, "we don't compete with youth soccer." Rather, the program complements the city's other youth sports programs. For only 25 bucks a kid gets a t-shirt and an open invite to all practices and thrice-weekly meets during the season. Schedule conflicts are nonexistent, for participation in all practices and races is optional.

Convinced he's not trying to "steal" their kids from other sports, coaches from sports ranging from soccer to baseball have encouraged their kids to take part to develop their speed.

And in keeping with the inclusive philosophy, improvement is stressed above all else. At the Wednesday night races, three waves of kids are grouped by ability (from Sandsharks to Great Whites) to race the mile. A finisher that shows marked improvement can move from one group to the next from week to week, and all get ribbons, cookies and Gatorade.

Given the amount of kids who are exposed to track through Landsharks, it's only natural that some will stick with running. And that's exactly what has happened. The very first Landshark alums are starting to make tracks on the high school level. And many of these runners are now volunteering to aid the next generation of Landsharks.

"So you can see," Steve concludes, "it's a win-win situation for everybody involved."

Who knows, it may just work in your town, too.

The Landsharks website is due to launch later this week. Steve Rex can be contacted at

Chris Lear is the author of Running with The Buffaloes and Sub-4:00.

Here is the site.

Check out some of the pics from the meets.

One pic

Another pic

I see the Landshark t-shirts at all of the 5k and 10ks in town now. Some of the kids just now getting into high school are awesome.

Two Kindergarten kids ran a 3:46 and 3:53 800m last year!

Adam Goucher and Matt Carpenter might get some serious competition for the best runner from the Springs title in the next few years.
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PostPosted: 09/30/04 - 04:52    Post subject:
Those kindergarten times are amazing

Let's hope that they all stick with it
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PostPosted: 09/30/04 - 06:04    Post subject:
Cappy wrote:
Those kindergarten times are amazing

Let's hope that they all stick with it

No kidding! Shocked
rolling rock
The Pinball
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PostPosted: 09/30/04 - 06:45    Post subject:
this program is amazing. we've got no such thing here, nothing even close..only a one-week camp in the summer. i would love to organize this in my hometown. the competition with soccer, football and baseball would probably be an issue though.

fast little kidlets there Mr. Green
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PostPosted: 09/30/04 - 08:38    Post subject:
JACKED UP wrote:

No kidding! Shocked

That is scary in all actuality, that they are so fast so young.
crazy cat lady
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PostPosted: 09/30/04 - 09:42    Post subject:
That's awesome, that would be a great thing for lots of communities.

I love the pictures
The Movie Geek
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PostPosted: 09/30/04 - 09:55    Post subject:
That is awesome!
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