Running, jumping and throwing
We all hear about Little League baseball, youth football and AAU basketball in Rutherford County. But God’s Track and Fitness Club, started by Van Wilkins in 2012, is trying to bring a new sport to the county forefront.
The club is comprised of over 20 county youths ranging from ages 8-14 that compete in various track and field events.
“Our goal is to make track and field big here in Rutherford County,” Wilkins said. “You got your basketball, football and softball but we want to start something different. Not all kids can play those other sports. Track is something that most kids can do, and that’s run.”
The participants compete in the 50, 100, 400 and 800-meter dashes as well the 4x100-meter relay on the track, and the softball throw and standing long jump in the field.
Wilkins is no stranger to athletics. An Asheville native, Wilkins was an All-State cross country runner in high school before his days at UNC Asheville where he was an All-Conference runner and basketball player.
“Even though I played basketball as my main sport I loved cross country,” Wilkins said. “It was something I could do by myself.”
From there he ran a similar track club in Asheville where he coached the likes of current and former NFL players Leonard Little, John Avery and Crezdon Butler.
Now in Forest City, Wilkins coaches young, budding athletes like Elwood Wright who won the 50 and 100-meter dashes as well as the Long Jump at the state regional meet in Asheville on May 31.
Caitlin Dailey starred on the field taking first place in the Softball Throw.
Now, 14 of the 19 club participants who competed in Asheville will move on to the North Carolina Parks and Recreation State Meet in Raleigh.
“If times are good enough at state level they qualify to compete on the national level. It’s rare, but it can happen,” Wilkins said.
After this season, the club hopes to grow in size and impact.
“Since I know most of the kids from the Spindale House I can observe them and see those who I think could do well in track,” Wilkins said. “I ask their parents, they start bringing them and see what we’re doing is positive. It’s a snowball effect.”
According to Wilkins, track and field is a non-discriminating sport.
“We want a diversity of kids from different backgrounds,” Wilkins said. “We take all kids. We don’t care if you’re not that fast. We want to take those kids that are somewhat shy and don’t want to compete in those other team sports.”
Wilkins also stresses the fitness focus of the young club.
“We also want to get kids in shape and healthy,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins and his assistant, Reggie Ledbetter, are also co-workers at the Spindale House and volunteer their time on the weekends to the donation-funded club that promotes faith among its participants.
“Our main goal is to praise Jesus. I know some people don’t like hearing that, especially in athletics, but we use it as a platform,” Wilkins said. “Cornerstone Baptist church really helps out a lot and parents that see what we’re trying to do.”
With the state meet quickly approaching, Wilkins and the club are holding a fundraising spaghetti dinner Friday, June 14 at Conerstone Fellowship Church in Forest City.
The funds raised will go towards an overnight stay for the team as they travel to Raleigh for the evening meet.
“There’s no hidden agenda, it’s just so we can stay overnight,” Wilkins said. “Hopefully we can get enough money to get these kids a hotel room and some food ... nothing extravagant.”
The dinner will feature musical acts from the county including the Cornerstone Praise Band.