In 1976, Jesse Holt started a small track and field meet that has turned into a humongous event of 2,000-plus that attracts competitors ranging in age from 5 years old to into their 80s.
That first meet had around 200 competitors, and that might be a generous count.
On Friday, the 38th running of Holt’s Northwest Express Track & Field Classic, now the largest track meet in Miami every year.
Holt, 70, didn’t really know what he was getting himself into 37 years ago. In fact, he readily admits he did not have much of a clue about anything in connection with staging a track meet.
Read more on the history of the classic and see pics from our Miami Youth Hurricanes Track & Field Club after the jump
“I had never put on a track meet before,” he said of the first Northwest Classic. “But some people came up to me and asked me to do it for them, so I did.
“It was mostly local kids in the early years, Dade and Broward [counties].”
That’s in contrast to this year’s version, which will have competitors from all across the United States and 11 different countries, including Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.
Did Holt envision the meet growing to this size?
“Not really,” he said, “but as it progressed I started thinking about the possibility.”
He also started thinking about the meet’s positive influence on kids, and even oldsters, and how witnessing that brought him so much joy. The Northwest Classic quickly became something he treasured.
But the meet also was becoming a monster, way too huge to have just one man running it. Holt was running around as fast as the competitors trying to make the event go smoothly, and he knew he needed help. Solving the manpower situation was sitting there right in front of Holt — his three sons.
They had all run in the Northwest Classic as boys and enjoyed their memories of the meet.
All three — Alan, Reggie and Darren — learned the value of athletics growing up in Miami, with Reggie going on to play football for the Green Bay Packers and Darren playing in the 1994 Rose Bowl for Wisconsin. It was time for them to give back, and they were more than happy to. In recent years, Alan, in particular, is Holt’s right-hand man in running the meet.
“Now I’ve gotten all these young sons helping me,” Holt said.
The sons particularly help out with the technology and computer preparation necessary to run a major track meet.
“They teach the old man how to poke at the computer and somehow get it done,” Holt said.
Helping and working with kids certainly brings a smile to Holt’s face and satisfaction to his being. That’s the glamorous part of something that has been 37 years in the making.
Of course, not all of it is that fulfilling and glamorous.
“I’ve got to go out to Dade-North,” Holt said abruptly on Thursday. “Just got a call, and I’ve got to be there. They’re delivering the portable toilets.”
However, even tasks such as that don’t take away from Holt’s true feelings about the meet.
“It’s a track meet,” Holt said, “but it’s also a celebration.”
Story courtesy of MiamiHerald