Something a little different.
Something that not only provides some good, quality competition, but also creates a little fun, a little excitement for its participants.
That was the main goal behind Sunday’s inaugural Mercury Indoor Games.
It would be safe to say that this past weekend’s meet, held at Wheaton College’s Haas Athletic Center, fit that bill to perfection.
“I think we did an okay job,” said Chris Strynar., who along with Wheaton men’s and women’s head track & field coach Kim Spence and Middleborough coaches TJ Smith and Connor Foley, were the brains behind the meet. “I hope we did.”
They did. They certainly did.
More than 350 athletes competed in the greco-roman themed meet, one that brought back time to the age of the Roman Empire. Before entering the building for the late morning, early afternoon competition, participants and spectators walked between a string of banners while the Parades of the Charioteers, music from the award-winning 1959 film Ben Hur, blared through a sound system.
Caesar, an empress, Roman centurions and, yes, even an authentic chariot were on site during the five-hour meet. For awards, the top six were given attractive medals while the top three were fitted with gold, silver and bronze crowns, reminiscent of those once worn by the Romans. Behind them on the podium, a cold sparks machine produced the pyrotechnics often seen at national-level events.
“From the feedback we’ve gotten, it was really positive. One of the kids, who had been to the nationals and stuff before, told us, ‘You know what? It’s better than the nationals because you get all the fun of it without all the pressure,'” said Strynar. “I think that’s what we were going for. Good competition and just have fun. Laugh, smile, enjoy the moment.”
The idea of the Mercury Games began a couple of years ago.
“I became close friends with Kim Spence and we were talking to (former Norton coach) Kent Taylor and we were like, ‘What’s the biggest need? What do we need in track & field?’ He was adamant that we need more FAT timing. That there’s not enough timing, so it’s tough for kids to get recruited, tough to do meets with that, and that everybody’s doing hand time and we really need more FAT.'”
From that conversation, Mercury Timing Systems was born and eventually the Mercury Games, one of hopefully several hosted by the timing company in the near future. Strynar credits the MSTCA for the fantastic job that they do in hosting a multitude of meets during the indoor and outdoor seasons and stated that he wasn’t looking to try and deter teams and athletes from competing at any of those meets. He just wanted to provide an additional source to help relieve the huge demand they are experiencing.
For the first meet, Strynar talked to his partners about doing something different from the norm.
“I was like, ‘Guys, I really want to do something special for the kids; something that most kids never have a chance at experiencing. That national vibe. That feel. The pomps and circumstances, sort of speak. All the banner and fanfare, and everything else. To make it memorable,'” he said. “We’ve all been in sports. It really is those memories. That’s what you keep, the memories. Yeah, you won. But it’s the times with your friends, and just trying to build those long-term memories and just having fun and bringing some fun back to the sport.”
All of that was accomplished on Sunday at a meet that had its share of star efforts by the athletes that competed. Earning the trophy as the top male and female performers were Bridgewater-Raynham’s Kauan Bento and Norton’s Jillian Strynar, who is the daughter of the meet’s co-director. In a close race with teammate Evan Bray, Bento captured the 55-meter dash (6.72 seconds) with the second fastest time in the state of 6.62 in the prelims, just one hundredth of a second from the winning time of Newton North’s Donnell Harvey a day earlier at the MSTCA Winter Festival. Strynar went home with three gold crowns, breaking the tape in the 55m dash and 300m and also taking the long jump. For the short dash, the Norton senior blazed to a state No. 1 of 7.35 seconds in the prelims and was timed in 7.42 in the finals. She ran 43.07 in the 300m and leaped 15 feet, 1 inch in the long jump. In addition, she also ran legs on the second-place 4x200m (1:59.67) and sprint medley (4:35.92) relays.
Check out compete results by clicking HERE