Empire Runners Club Summer Track series welcomes all

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The Empire Runners Club Summer Track Series

Location: Piner High School, 1700 Fulton Road, Santa Rosa

Cost: $10 for whole meet series, free to club members and children 9 and under participating in the sprints

Start time: 6 p.m. Tuesdays June 28, July 12, July 26, Aug. 9

The kiss of a Sonoma County summer is upon us and with it a favorite local running event, the Empire Runners Club Summer Track series.

The series, hosted each year by the Santa Rosa-based club, rotates locations each year and occurs every other Tuesday evening from June through mid-August.

Piner High hosts this summer, and Montgomery High will host in 2017. The hosting school receives a donation from the club for its cross country and track and field programs.

“It’s a good deal for both the club and the programs,” said Brad Zanetti, a club member and frequent volunteer at the track meets.

The all-comers meets attract an average of 200 competitors each time, a wide mix of recreational runners, families, current and ex-athletes, local coaches and even the occasional tourist looking to check out the Sonoma County running scene.

“I have been running in the Empire track meets for two years now,” said Branden Walton, a former cross country runner for Windsor High School. “I enjoy these meets because they bring a lot of kids out who may not have the opportunity in their schools to run track, and it gives them support to try new things with the runners who come out to compete.”

The family-friendly meets can be fun and competitive, with the sprint heats divided into age group categories and the longer distance heats divided by projected time. The toddler heats — 100-meter and 200-meter sprints — are often the most entertaining and heartwarming events of the evening.

If you have a hankering to check your fitness level with an old-fashioned mile run, it’s the first event at each meet. While the rest of the evening’s schedule is a little more condensed than a traditional high school or college meet, the lineup still includes all sprints, some distance events, shot put and discus throws for the seventh grade and older crowd, as well as the 4 x 400-meter relay.

Wondering how you match up against competitors past and present? Visit the club’s website, empirerunners.org, for records from all its track meets going back to 1986.

The next meet is scheduled for Tuesday, June 28, and will be the club’s annual Olympic Day, in which a few local Olympians will be on hand to sign autographs for the kids. John Harmon, a club member who organizes the event, says Santa Rosa Mayor John Sawyer has written a proclamation to be read that evening, officially recognizing an annual Olympic Day.

Local Olympians currently scheduled to appear include hurdler and former SRJC track coach Ron Whitney and 1,500-meter runner Steven Agar. Additional Olympians also have been invited, Harmon said.

Danneca Skandera’s children, ages 5 to 16, are regular competitors at the Empire Running Club meets, which she describes as “a great opportunity for the whole family, whether you’re looking to compete or just have fun. The variety of ages at the meets is such a healthy environment for everyone, too.”

Melody Karpinski is head cross country coach at Montgomery High School, and distance coach for track and field at Montgomery and Rincon Valley Christian School. Contact her at melody@fleetfeetsantarosa.com.

The Empire Runners Club Summer Track Series

Location: Piner High School, 1700 Fulton Road, Santa Rosa

Cost: $10 for whole meet series, free to club members and children 9 and under participating in the sprints

Start time: 6 p.m. Tuesdays June 28, July 12, July 26, Aug. 9

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