ASAP track meet offers fun and a lesson

WARREN — The Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention’s summer track meet drew 175 children ages 4 to 18, as well as 40 high school and college-age volunteers, to the Warren G. Harding High School track complex Saturday for several hours of track and field competition.

It was the largest turnout in the event’s five-year history, according to organizers.

The event included the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, high jump and discus. Volunteers from McDonald and Warren G. Harding high schools and Youngstown State University track and field programs assisted community sponsors with a fitness challenge, a bounce house and refreshments.

“We know that participating in sporting activities is a protective factor for kids to help prevent their risk of drug and alcohol use,” said Laura Domitrovich, children’s program coordinator for the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board. ASAP is a program of the county agency.

As coordinator of the event, Domitrovich recruited several of her own family members — some of whom are sports-minded — who she said helped spur what was her idea. The decision to pair a message of substance abuse prevention and education with a track meet was a natural one, she said.

“This is our (TCHRMB’s) major prevention event for kids and families,” she said, noting ASAP also holds a September Rally for Recovery for families impacted by addiction, a spring drug summit for professionals who work in the field and regular prescription drug drop-off events in the community.

More than 200 youth participated in the community-wide event, in addition to the 85 individuals from the community and organizations that were either present at the event or provided funds.

Young runners were all smiles as they were greeted by family and friends following their races. Jah’kie Edwards, 5, won the heat for the 100-meter dash in his first race. On the other side of the track, Rosie Wargo, 14, a soon-to-be freshman at Warren G. Harding High School and a track team member since grade 7, was careful to stretch and prepare for her races as she said she has been taught.

“Coach (Frank) Caputo taught me that hurdles are a mental thing. It has taught me that you have to work for where you want to go,” she said of her participation in hurdles on the track team. “Today, I am running the 100-meter and 200-meter dash for the first time.”

Jasmine Smyles, a Youngstown State University student, track team member and volunteer, said Saturday’s event reminded her of her younger years as a runner.

“It reminds me of when I was a little kid. They are awesome, they truly are,” she said of the participants.

Smyles assisted by measuring and counting the distance in the softball throw, while other volunteers like those from Meridian Health were on hand passing out information.

“We are a federally qualified health center able to provide quality health care no matter income or insurance, throughout three counties. We provide care from birth to the elderly,” volunteer Stephanie Bardash of OneHealth Ohio said.

The agency was among several sponsors of the meet. Others included the Warren City School District, Compass Family and Community Services and McDonald’s John Perdue Inc.

Although a medal ceremony highlighted the efforts of the participants, the event had a larger goal of giving kids alternatives to managing substance abuse and preventing them from becoming addicted in the first place.

Domitrovich said this year’s event had the largest turnout since it began in 2015.

“A lot of people come together. We do it for the kids,” she said.