The second annual Zeke Francis Youth Invitational Track Meet is set to take place on Saturday, Aug. 3, giving local children age 5-14 the opportunity to compete in track and field much earlier than they otherwise would have, while also benefiting the Grand County High School track and field program. Just over 40 youths competed in the inaugural meet in 2018, named for Zeke Francis, a long-time football and track and field assistant coach, who passed away in 2018. The meet is the brainchild of Francis' youngest son, current Southern Utah University (SUU) track athlete and GCHS alumnus Jacob Francis. There will be a couple minor changes to this year's meet from last year. This year, the meet will start at 8 a.m., instead of 9 a.m. In addition, the 1600-meter race will be the first event of the day. “We're definitely trying to keep the kids out of the heat,” Jacob Francis said. “Another change is we're running the mile first thing in the morning, so we don't have the longest race of the day during the hottest time of day.” Also new this year is the all-ages youth javelin throw, giving athletes a second throwing event option in addition to the softball toss.
“They have a special javelin called “TurboJav” that is plastic with a rubber tip,” Francis said. “It's completely safe for kids.” Francis said about 20 volunteers are expected to help with the meet, many of whom he hopes will come from the track team. He said his goal this year is to raise enough money to buy new high jump equipment for the team. “We'd like to get a better cover for the landing pad and some equipment to move the landing pad in and out every day to keep it out of the weather and make the investment last longer,” he said. “Not a lot of people know this, but a high jump landing pad runs between 10 and 15 thousand dollars.” Francis said he expects around the same number of competitors this year as last year. This year, after many experienced difficulties trying to register online in 2018, event personnel will be at the high school for an on-site preregistration the night before the meet, Friday, Aug. 2, from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. Athletes may also register at www,runnercard.com. There will be no same-day registration, Francis said. After the meet, Francis will return his focus to the upcoming SUU school year, in which he will be a redshirt sophomore in cross country and a redshirt junior in track and field. “I've just been trying to keep running more miles every day,” he said. “My personal goal is to make the traveling cross country team this year. We're coming off a Big Sky (conference) Championship in outdoor track, so we just want to keep it rolling.”