NEW BRITAIN - There was a steady increase to the heat as Saturday wore on, but that didnâ€™t stop the crowds and athletes from gathering for the track and field portion of the Nutmeg Games at Veterans Stadium.
As the athletes checked in for their meets, they mingled with one another, laughing and joking.
But the completion level, although lighter than in some school or state meets, was still high, especially when it was time to get to the starting blocks or enter the throwing circle.
There were more than 600 athletes that participated across 16 different events in 16 different age brackets.
â€śItâ€™s been a great day and every year continues to get better,â€ť said Jesse McCray, the Nutmeg Games track and field meet director. â€śWe continue to get more and more people each year.
â€śOur goal is to get it to 1,000. We had a little over 600. We had great weather and a great staff thatâ€™s been working hard. [Executive Director] Patrick [Fisher] and his staff have done a great job recruiting people for the event and we had great officials and then the athletes. They continue to get better and better each year.â€ť
For some, the games offer a chance to compete in the sport once their high school and college days end. For others, competing is a chance to stay in shape outside of the high school or collegiate season.
That was part of the draw for Carlos Villarini, who is set to begin his senior year at New Britain High in the fall.
â€śSince my cross country season is coming up, the training is a way to not get out of running shape and not get out of my shape from outdoor season,â€ť Villarini said.
He took second in his heat of the 400-meter dash and also competed in the 200.
â€śYou donâ€™t really have to worry, too, about what you do here,â€ť said New Britain native Ben Oâ€™Neal, who competed against his two brothers in the 2,000-meter steeplechase. â€śItâ€™s just about coming here, having fun and competing.â€ť
The games also draw well at the youth level, with many of the dayâ€™s participants coming from track clubs throughout the state and the Northeast. Getting the clubs to come in and take part is key for the games, McCray said.
â€śYou have tremendous club support with the Connecticut Jaguars, the Danbury Flyers and the Brooklyn Lightning, the New Haven Hawks, New Fairfield Flash, so thereâ€™s great club support and you have to start at the grassroots level,â€ť McCray said.
â€śItâ€™s the youth that really make the numbers explode. We just hope to see these clubs grow and grow and we benefit from their participation.â€ť
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach