The brightly colored pennants fluttered in the breeze and the rainbow motif was repeated in the tents that sprang up around the fences, each containing its own band of similarly garbed parents and competitors. All age groups reported to Winthrop's Irwin Belk Track on Friday for the first day of the South Carolina Junior Olympics, the first in a three-step process that could advance several state representatives to the national meet.
Not that anyone's already thinking about it. Got to crawl before one walks.
"Last year, we didn't have anyone in the hammer," said official Bryan Stewart after the Intermediate Girls/Young Women Hammer Throw. "This year we got around eight, so what's that, an 800 percent increase?
"I'm really looking forward to next year."
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The three-day event began with a short day, javelin, mini-javelin and hammer starting the event and preceding the racewalk and steeplechase runners in the evening. Stewart was working right away at the hammer pit, watching his 14-year-old daughter, Katharine, toss a qualifying mark of 24.7 meters.
"He taught me how," said Katharine, who throws for her high school team in her native Aiken and has been competing in some event of track and field since age 8. "He used to throw and I got into it."
Stewart was the only competitor in her age group from Aiken's Palmetto Track and Field, the rest of the field made up of a group from Charleston's Peak Performance club. Standing in the circle with what amounts to a cannonball on a wire in her hand, Stewart twirled the apparatus around her head a few times and then launched it.
It came down and she had a date in the regional meet in four weeks, set to be held at South Pointe High School among the best from six Southeastern states.
"I was looking forward to it," Stewart said, beaming through a mouthful of braces. "Not too forward, because I didn't want to overlook this, but I thought I had a good shot."
Her dad, a former javelin thrower at N.C. State who still competes in the adult division, said the same.
"We kind of expected to be back," he said. "She was hoping for a qualifying mark for the youth nationals, which is in two weeks at (Charlotte). We'll be ready for the regionals."
A stroll around the fence features the tents and lawn chairs set up for each track club, the names leaping out -- Aiken, Summerville, Charleston, Florence, Mt. Pleasant. Most of the other teams from around the state will arrive today, but there was still a sizable contingent.
Ray Dixson relaxed in the shade of his tent, coolers and chairs scattered comfortably around, to watch his 10-year-old daughter, Sara, compete in the mini-javelin and shot put.
"This is her first year," said Dixson, who also brought Sara's sister, Taylor, along. "A friend of hers told her about it and she wanted to try out for it."
Sara throws for the Summerville Storm and like Stewart, chips off the old block. Ray threw the shot in junior high school and high school while growing up in Nebraska, forsaking track for football in college.
Competing in the smaller divisions, athletes throw a lighter javelin but were still hurling it pretty far. The Dixsons enjoyed some of the other competition before Sara took the field.
"We've seen a couple of good ones so far," Ray said. "We're just hoping (Sara) can join them."
"The goal for everybody is to get to nationals," Bryan Stewart said. "Already we've had such a good turnout. Last year we didn't have any of the throwing events and this year we've got all four."