The Beaverton Youth Track Club (BYTC) was started seven years ago with the idea of providing local area kids track and field, along with cross country opportunities outside of school sponsored events.
That opportunity reached a crescendo this past weekend when members of the club claimed a national championship.
The BYTC's girls team won the ages 15-18 team competition at the 2021 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships Saturday, Dec. 11, at Bourbon County Park in Paris, Kentucky.
Led by individual third place finisher, 16-year-old Erin Cosgrove, who completed the 5,000-meter course in 19:52.50, the BYTC team finished with 46 points, 27 clear of second place finisher Prospect Park Youth Running Club from New York City.
In all, the local running club placed four runners in the top 30 and five in the top 50, in an event featuring more than 100 of the country's top youth competitors.
"It was a lot of fun and great for the girls, especially considering the difficult conditions," BYTC coach Ian Gillespie said.
Tornadoes ripped through the western part of Kentucky this the weekend of the event, wreaking havoc and taking lives in cities throughout the state. Paris mostly avoided the tragic consequences many in the area suffered, but rain and wind resulting from the widespread weather event provided competitors with unforeseen obstacles.
"It was pretty miserable," Gillespie said. "Lexington was spared the worst of the weather, but it was still 40 mph winds, driving rain and temperatures feeling like 30 degrees, so it was pretty rough."
In addition to Cosgrove's third-place finish, Elizabeth Satterlee placed 14th with a time of 20:49.50, while Zoe Heino (21:30.30) was 24th, Maslin Sigler (21:40.10) 29th, Stephanie Tedd (21:48.50) 37th, Livia Coviltir (22:33.00) 55th, Allison Hoffman (23:47.10) 78th, Emerie Miles (24:43.20) 94th and Maria Standley (25:28.10) 102nd.
In just their fifth year of competition as a USATF sanctioned running program, the BYTC has grown from a fledgling operation to a club in excess of 100 kids, roughly half of whom compete in the fall. The club operates over a three-season year: a spring season for track, a full fall season for cross country, and a winter conditioning season.
Without facilities of their own, Gillespie said they typically practice at local parks, on local roads for distance training and area tracks — including at Life Christian School in Aloha — when possible. He also said that they limit numbers seasonally dependent on the numbers of coaches available, for it's important to them to be able to provide quality coaching for participants opposed to simply providing supervision.
"We do limit the numbers based on the number of coaches, because you can only coach about 10 to 12 kids and really know who they are and what they're doing," Gillespie said. "We like to be able to split our kids up into sort of small, pretty focused groups, so that we can actually coach them rather than just herd them around."
Along those same lines, the club limits spring events based on that same coaching availability.
"We only promote and coach events that we know we can do," the coach said. "We had a long jump coach and a throws coach, but we don't do pole vault, triple jump, we didn't do high jump — all because we couldn't provide proper instruction."
Athletes typically begin training in the spring, after their high school seasons end, and will compete through July in events featuring kids from around the Portland Metro area, along with athletes from across the Pacific Northwest, including Washington and Idaho.
The club has been competing for five years now and has managed to survive even in the midst of the pandemic, which Gillespie said has dealt a suffocating blow to the sport at the club level. But the Beaverton coach said they've done their best to work within the local protocols, and while challenging, have maintained focused despite the seemingly countless obstacles in their path over the past two years.
"There's just been so much conflicting information, which has made things very challenging," he said, referring to COVID-19 health and safety rules and guidance. "There were just lots and lots of hurdles, and because of that, so many clubs are no longer around."
Gillespie added that both the physical and mental difficulties of the sport make it challenging at times to keep participation numbers up. While they are staying afloat, ultimately, they just want to be present for kids with an itch for running.
"We've always focused on being able to give kids opportunities," Gillespie said. "So, if you want to do it, whether you're at the front of the pack or the back of the pack, we're going to help you and work with you."
If you're interested in learning more about the Beaverton Youth Track club, visit their website at beavertonyouthtrack.com.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.