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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Austin HornbostelAfter missing the 2020 edition thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lions Club track meet was back for 2021, drawing spectators from around the county to Riley Field for the event.

Nearly 700 students from throughout Moniteau County converged on California High School’s Riley Field on Friday for the California Lions Club’s 32nd annual track meet.

After a year away from the event thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the track meet was back in full force last week; spectators filled the stands and lines for concessions alike, taking in a full day of races between 683 fourth- through sixth-graders from 10 of the county’s schools.

Lions Club president Sarah Jones said it was a welcome sight to see the event back in action, despite how busy she and other volunteers were at the concessions stand and elsewhere around the track.

“For being off last year due to COVID, it was a great way to get started back into it again,” Jones said.

The event drew participants from California, Tipton, Jamestown, High Point, Prairie Home, Bunceton, Clarksburg, Latham, St. Andrews and St. Martins. Jones said the number of participants was slightly lower than the norm of around 710 that usually compete, likely due to some continued hesitancy regarding the pandemic.

However, Jones said the club hopes to bring Russellville back for future meets, after that school more recently has been doing its own thing. Doing so would bring participation numbers up beyond the year-to-year average.

“If they do come back, then that’ll bump us up close to 900 kids, or (at least) over 800 kids,” Jones said.

Regardless of the slightly lower-than-usual turnout, Jones said concessions sold out and the club should have still been able to garner enough profit from the event to cover its usual expenses from the event. Donations take care of a number of expenses for each year’s meet, such as the cost of medals for participants and concession supplies for the day. Jones said the California swim team and CHS track and field team typically rotate donating the use of their stopwatches for the meet, so whichever group does so typically receives a donation as well.

Otherwise, the club will begin deciding where remaining donations will be allocated at its next meeting. Jones listed a number of places that Lions Club funds help support from year to year — sponsorships for Missouri Boys State and Missouri Girls State, area scout groups, donations to Moniteau County Toys for Tots.

“We were very excited,” Jones said. “After being off with COVID, you don’t know how everybody’s going to react. Sometimes it’s like getting back on the horse, but I think it was received very well. Everybody seemed to have a great day.”

Jones voiced appreciation for all of the event’s volunteers, which she said extend far beyond the Lions Club. The Moniteau County Sheriff’s Department helped out, as did many others who helped to time events and take care of event statistics.

Next year’s meet date is already set for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. May 6, 2022, again at Riley Field.

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