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Fast in Bridgetown - Annapolis County Athletics finds new home, lots of members


BRIDGETOWN, N.S. —

Athletes in Bridgetown tend to be fast.

It’s a legacy that goes all the way back to Bill Hirtle’s days of coaching track at the old high school. Hirtle’s 94 years old now but he still works out at Bridgetown’s new gym three times a week.

Back in the day he coached national champions like local legend Bobby Lockett. So when Lockett walked into an open house at Annapolis County Athletics March 31, Lillian Lawrence gave him a big hug. She’s the new generation of track athlete from Bridgetown and she’s already setting records.

Steven Young is president of Annapolis County Athletics.

“We started as a track and field club for athletes from all over the county and beyond,” said Young. “We’ve got kids that come from as far as New Germany, West Kings, Brier Island, Berwick. So we cover quite a wide area.”

He said the idea for the club was to give kids extra training after the high school season ended, or before it started.

“It’s kind of grown beyond that now,” he said. “The membership is I think almost at 100 athletes. We started this Run, Jump, Throw program, so we’ve got 75 kids that are six to 10-year-olds. We’ve targeted the Lawrencetown school, the Bridgetown school, we’re into Middleton, Berwick, Digby. We’re going to keep going. That’s been very successful. And then we have our teenagers who come and train with the main club.”

PHYSICAL LITERACY

Young said the target with the younger athletes is a physical literacy focus – teach them how to stand on one foot, run, jump, and throw is the basis of it.

“And then we’ve got kids all the way at the other end,” he said. “One of the young guys won the nationals in Javelin last year at the Legions. So we’ve got kids that are just starting and we’ve got national champions and everything in between.”

Olympic runner Jenna Martin trained with the late Charlie Scarrow in Bridgetown at Athletics East for many years.

“With ACA we have meets during the winter, indoor meets,” said parent John Ray Lawrence. “Four indoor meets that we go to in Halifax. And then there’s four outdoor meets with Athletics Nova Scotia. And the kids also run for their school teams. So basically it’s track, for these older kids, almost year round.”

The ACA fitness facility is located in the BDC – Bridgetown Development Centre – at 26 Bay Road in Bridgetown.

“A group of parents from ACA moved everything over between Christmas and New Years,” said Lawrence. They’d been operating from a smaller space in the same building.

“A couple hundred hours of volunteer time and we set up this new facility,” he said. “We felt we could raise our membership from what was probably 10 or 12 to 50 to 60 and it’s creeping in on 70 as of today for members in the community.”

NON-PROFIT

The ACA is a non-profit society, and Lawrence said any profits that that are made will be re-invested back into new gym equipment and programs.

The March 31 open house drew more than 70 people, including a lot of seniors who tried out the equipment. Membership manager Murray Freeman was kept busy.

“I think it’s to bring in people who haven’t seen this space yet, or didn’t know it was here, to come in, take a look at what we’ve done, ask questions about the equipment, get some instruction on how to use it, to see what the track club’s all about,” said Young of the open house. “The kids are going to have a practice later in the day so they can see our athletes go through a little bit of a workout. It’s really just to get people in and see the space and see what’s here.”

It’s not just the young athletes taking advantage of the numerous pieces of equipment. It’s all ages.

“We have members, basically, in the weight room gym fitness side, from 10 years of age to 94. Bill Hirtle comes here three or four times a week. We have a large number of people in their 60s and 70s who are using it as a walking track,” said Lawrence. “You can come any day of the week, 10, 11 o’clock in the morning and there’s seven or eight people in there working out.”

And people walk laps around the gym -- 14 laps is a kilometer.

“It’s been pretty popular,” said Lawrence.

SAFE PLACE

“It’s such a safe spot compared to the sidewalks. No slight against the sidewalks or the town crews,” said Young. “It’s a very level surface in here. It’s got a really soft, thick Astroturf carpet. The seniors that come in that have balance trouble, eyesight troubles, or sore joints or knees – they come in here and they walk laps. They have a great time.”

For the young athletes, the turf is great for practicing hurdles like Young’s daughter Lily was doing during the open house. She and Maddie MacDonald also worked out on the rowing machines.

“If you go back, Bridgetown has an outstanding track history, back into the ‘50s and ‘60s with numerous people in those years setting national records, going to nationals, doing very well,” said Lawrence. “Bridgetown high school track has had great coaches over the years – Jack Walker, Bill Hirtle especially, Dick Campbell who was a runner in the ‘60s as well as coached through the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.”

THE FUTURE

Lawrence said a few years ago track had seemed to peter off a bit.

“But it seems now we’re beginning to get some success again,” Lawrence said. “So we seem to have generated a little bit of excitement about track. And now with the new track coming to Bridgetown – and it basically going to be a regional training facility – there will be more kids coming from everywhere to train on this new track. It’s pretty exciting for track in Bridgetown.”

Work on the new multi-million-dollar facility will start later this year at the site of the old high school.

“There’s numerous kids in our club that are going to break and set records over the next four or five years that have stood for 35, 40, 50 years,” said Lawrence. “And the kids who set those records in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s all went on the do track after high school. These kids know they can go to another level, that’s for sure.”

Membership at ACA is open to anyone. Student memberships are $25 a month, adults $40 a month or three months for $100. If you just want to drop in, that’s $5.

Contact Murray Freeman at 902-824-2330.

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