Considering how much attention the sport of track and field receives in the United States, it's easy to understand why most young athletes choose to throw a baseball rather than a javelin, jump for a rebound instead of over a bar, and run around the bases instead of the track.
But first-year Carson High School track and field coach Todd Ackerman has begun an effort to expose more young athletes to a sport the rest of the world appreciates, but one which the United States pays attention to for just two weeks every four years during the Olympic Games.
On Saturday, Ackerman and several other of the area's top coaches hosted the first annual Carson High Track Camp in order to give local kids a chance to experience track and field. The camp, which served as a fund-raiser for the Carson High program, drew 32 participants and gave the athletes a chance to improve their technique and to try some new events.
"The main goal of the camp is just to promote track and field," said Ackerman, who had been a Senator assistant for five years before taking over for Jeff Evans this season. "There are only so many sports stars. It's too bad American kids only see the track and field stars like Sergei Bubka and Michael Johnson just once every four years."
Ackerman noted that the Carson area has been a hotbed for track and field talent in recent years. Some of the Carson High graduates who are having successful Division 1 careers include: Jessica Marable, UNLV's No. 1 shot puter, Alissa Anderson, Nevada's provisional NCAA qualifier in the high jump, and Jody Carlsen, one of Nevada's top distance runners.
Two of the youngest participants in the camp were the Mangiaracina siblings: Michael, 9, and Sara, 8. Both are students at Pinon Hills Elementary School.
"I just love running; I've been running since I was three," said Michael, who also discovered an interest in high jumping during the camp.
Sara said her favorite activity of the day was pole vaulting.
"It was fun going into the air," Sara said.
Their father, Michael Sr., a former football player, said he was glad to see his children develop an early interest in sports.
"You're not going to win any medals in an arcade," said Michael Sr. "Whether it's track and field, skiing or swimming, I support any program that exposes them to new sports and helps out the schools."
For some Carson High track and field athletes, the camp signified that it was time to get serious about the upcoming season. Official track practice begins today for Senator athletes.
"I came out to learn technique in the long jump," said freshman Alex Herrera, who ran youth track for the Silver State Striders and is likely to run in the sprints and hurdles for the Senators this spring.
Herrera joked there was one additional lure of the camp.
"Pizza for lunch," he said.