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Posted: March 18, 2014 7:45 p.m.

Hershey's event coming to Newton County

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The Hershey's Track and Field games will be coming to Newton County this April.

Instead of their trademark chocolate bars, Hershey's is bringing fun and exercise to Newton County next month as the county prepares to host its first Hershey's Track & Field Games on Saturday, April 12.

The event will begin at 9 a.m. at Newton High School, giving the best young athletes in the county a chance to compete against their peers.

The event will feature three different age groups in both boys and girls divisions. The meet will include events such as the 50 meter, 100 meter, 200 meter and 400 meter dash, along with a 4x100 meter relay, a standing long jump and a softball throw.

Age divisions will include 9-10 year olds, 11-12 year-olds and 13-14 year olds. Students as young as six-years-old may compete, but only Newton County students ages nine and up can advance to the state and North American finals.

Students will be placed in their age divisions as of Dec. 31. 2014.

Students may compete if they meet the age requirements and are not a member of their school's track and field team.

The entry fee for the event is $6 for 6-8 year-olds and $12 for 9-14 year-olds.

“This was the third year of my pursuing the possibility of hosting the HERSHEY's Track and Field Games in our county,” Co-founder/Executive Director of Cornerstone Track and Athletic Association Olinda Ricard-Hodge said. “Our county's recreation department does not currently have a county sponsored track and field program, so there was a big learning curve involved before the event could be approved.

“It is our hope that we can be a catalyst for expanding our county's programing to include track and field, but our greatest concern is the obesity rate among children in Georgia.”

Ricard-Hodge said that students in Newton County should be aware of the dangers obesity presents. Georgia currently ranks second in the nation in childhood obesity.

“Obesity puts individuals at high risk for major chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea and others,” she said. “The lack of team sports in our county's elementary schools, and (the fact that) many sixth grade middle schoolers are not allowed to participate on team sports in their schools, (means that) we (the Newton community) are stacking the odds against our youth for developing healthy and active lifestyles.  All parents are not in the position, due to finances, transportation or time, to place their children in out of school fitness or sports programs.”

The event is sanctioned by the Newton County Recreation Commission and will be organized by the Cornerstone Track & Athletic Association, the Youth Alliance for Leadership & Life, Inc., and Sacred Families International, Inc.

Local winners, excluding the 9-10 year-old and 11-12 year old 4x100 meter relay teams, will advance to their respective district/state/territory meet with an opportunity to advance to the North American Finals in Hershey, Penn.

Participants and volunteers can pre-register online at www.cornerstonetrackandathletics.org. Pre-registration ends on April 10, but walk up registration is available on the day of the meet.

The meet will be held rain or shine.

Athletes are not permitted to wear spikes at the event.

The Hershey's Youth Program began in 1975 beginning on 36 playgrounds. Today, the Hershey's Track and Field games is the largest youth sports program of its kind in North America, serving over 400,000 kids annually.

For more information, contact Ricard-Hodge at 678-658-6725 or by email at cornerstoneathletics@yahoo.com

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