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Powell trackster competes in Hershey’s Final

HERSHEY, Pa. — Talk about the sweet taste of success.

Julia Kay O’Neill, a Powell resident, competed in the 37th Annual (and final) Hershey’s Track & Field Games North American Final. The meet featured the top youth athletes from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

O’Neill competed in the 800-meter run in the 13- to 14-year-old age group and finished fourth with a time of 2:26.58.

“It was just a really great experience,” O’Neill said. “A life-changing experience.”

O’Neill said she was pleased of her result, especially considering the conditions.

“I’ve never ran in that kind of heat and humidity before,” O’Neill said.

Making it to the Hershey’s Track & Field Games North American Final is a significant accomplishment for O’Neill. Competitors advanced to the North American Final, held in Hershey, Pa., home of the famous chocolate company, by winning in local, state and provincial meets.

O’Neill was impressed by the national competition.

“There are some amazing people that are only 9 to 14 years old,” O’Neill said.

The girl who won O’Neill’s race finished in less than 2:13, which O’Neill noted would have been the fastest time at Wyoming’s state track meet.

“I don’t think that track is as big of a thing in Wyoming as it is other places,” O’Neill said.

While in Hershey O’Neill was able to take in some of the sights.

“The second day we were there we got to go to Hershey Park (an amusement park), and that was really fun,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill, along with her parents and sister, also visited a Hershey’s museum.

Since its creation in 1977, more than 10 million children have participated in Hershey’s Track & Field Games meets. Over the past three decades it has grown to become the largest youth activity program of its kind in North America.

“It was just something I’ll never forget and I’m really glad I got to go,” O’Neill said.

Olympic greats Dan O’Brien, Rafer Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Carl Lewis served as ambassadors for the event and spent time coaching, cheering and supporting the 450 youth participants.

“All of these kids worked very hard preparing in their local communities in order to make it to the North American Final,” said Lewis, a nine-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Hershey’s Track & Field Games ambassador. “I’m glad we were able to celebrate their dedication by welcoming them to Hershey for a weekend of fun and activity.”

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