Milton Hershey School Track Athletes Compete in Junior Olympics
Milton Hershey School’s club track team, Milts4Life, recently explored another part of the country and competed in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics. The students traveled to Eugene, Oregon, in late July to showcase their skills at historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon Campus.
Coach Roger Smith has aimed to have a team qualify for Junior Olympics since starting the Milts4Life program in 2019. Club track, Smith explained, gives MHS student-athletes the chance to compete at a higher level than they experience at Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association meets. Many students from other schools only participate in club track because they believe it is stiffer competition.
“It’s a very beneficial experience because the pressure is on to compete,” Smith said.
Competing against high-quality athletes requires MHS students to overcome barriers and focus on their talents, Smith said.
“I tell the kids, ‘If you are fearful, don’t let the fear freeze you,’” Smith said. “Overcoming challenges on the track can help students in many other aspects of life.”
The approach worked. Smith is proud of everyone who competed and noted senior Mark Bridgeford achieved a personal best in the 400m hurdles with a time of 56.53.
“I knew, as an athlete, he could do it if he could get his mind into it,” Smith said.
Bridgeford also placed eighth in the long jump, earning him All American status. Abraham Sloboh and Erin Miles were also named All Americans, Smith said.
Club track presents many additional opportunities for MHS students, Smith said. Traveling to competitions gives them the chance to see the country outside of southcentral Pennsylvania. While in Oregon, track athletes also visited the Pacific Ocean coastline. Only one student in the group previously saw the Pacific. Four of the students flew on an airplane for the first time.
Smith believes his athletes are MHS ambassadors. Before they travel, he coaches them on how to speak of the school with the hopes that others will want to learn more about the many opportunities the school offers.
“Our mission is bigger than just track,” he said.
Competing in the Junior Olympics is one of many athletics opportunities MHS offers its students. Spartans have access to highly trained coaches and staff. They practice and compete at world-class facilities. The school covers all costs involved with competition, including uniforms, equipment, registration, travel, and lodging.