Track and field passions staying alive for H-F community residents

Explosion Track Club members front row Julius Baldridge,
left, and Ed Rhyne, and standing from left John Smith,
Lee Bridges and Jay Williams.

(Photo by Marilyn Thomas/HF Chronicle)

The passion of sport hasn’t gone out for members of Explosion Track Club.

These runners, sprinters and jumpers with laurels from their college days come together each evening at Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s track to keep their momentum going. Members in the USA Track & Field-sanctioned club range in age from 19 to 29 competing in the open category, and age 30 and up in the masters category.

“As masters, we still think we have something left in the tank,” said Jay Williams, 51, of Homewood, who was a 400-meter hurdler national collegiate winner when he attended Iowa State University. 

The members say the primary reasons for their athletic rigor is fitness and health. 

Some join as casual walkers and others will be in competition during the year for regional, national and international meets.

Three members—Williams, Lee Bridges, 48, of Homewood, and Emma McGowan, 46, of Hanover Park, will be in Lyon, France, in August competing in the World Masters Athletic Outdoor Championships.  

“The Europeans are very competitive. They race a lot,” said Bridges who was an Olympic qualifier in the 200- and 400-meter hurdles in 1988 when he attended the University of Illinois. He will be trying for a world record in France in the 200- and 400-meter hurdles.

Several members will be in Florida at the Masters National Championships in July, or competing at the Midwest Regional or Illinois Masters Meets, including Explosion Club President Ed Rhyne, 42, of Homewood, who competes in the 400- and 200-meter dash races. He was a two-time All American in the 4 X 400-meter relay at North Central College in Naperville.

H-F makes its facilities available to the community, so once H-F students walk off the track field, the Explosion Club members walk on at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

During the winter months the harsh weather takes club members into H-F’s new fieldhouse, a space “we truly do appreciate taking advantage of,” Williams said.

They start with a 30-minute warm-up jogging around the track and taking part in sprint drills before moving into their specialty training regimens.  A few of the members are coaches and can help establish a program that will best suit the athlete. 

“Anyone over 30 can be as organized as they want,” Rhyne said, noting that each member sets his or her own pace, and is encouraged by the others. 

Julius Baldridge, 68, of Flossmoor, has been running for 53 years. The retired Bloom Trail High School teacher ran half-mile and mile distances and cross country when he was a student at Eastern Illinois University.  Today he runs 5Ks. He recently won two gold medals in the Illinois Senior Olympics in 1,500- and 800- meter distances.

The newest member is John Smith, 19, of Hazel Crest, who ran track at Hillcrest High School and is getting in shape so he can try out for the team at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Ill., this fall.

The nearly two dozen Explosion Club members are primarily local, but athletes in Texas and Washington are registered with the club. The membership allows them to compete in USA Track & Field events.

Members from the Homewood-Flossmoor area met at their children’s sporting events. The parents started going for runs for the camaraderie and it led them back to the track. 

Serving with Rhyne are Rashida Gates of Flossmoor, vice president; Cherylyn Gooch of Richton Park, secretary; Daphne Kennedy-Johnson of Richton Park, treasurer; and Williams as sergeant-at-arms.

To learn more about Explosion Track Club visit www.explosiontrack.weebly.com.

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