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New club fills summer track void

When the Northstar United track club moved out of Eagan, several Rosemount track and field athletes were left abandoned, unsure of where they would compete this summer.

Understanding the void left by the Eagan track club's absence, a group of parents, led by Kathy Jalivay, decided to take action.

With the help of Rosemount track and field coach Jay Hatleli, Jalivay was able to see her concept come to reality.

Thus was born the REAL track and field club in Rosemount.

"We had a handful of kids calling, asking what they were going to do," Jalivay said. "Rosemount graciously allowed us to use their facilities. We started out with 12 kids and it turned into 50 as a way for kids to develop during the summer athletically in track and field and also use it as a way to stay in shape for fall sports."

Jalivay was one of the main organizers of the REAL track and field club, which uses Rosemount high school facilities for practice. The club will hold an all-comers meet tomorrow at Rosemount high school.

Beginning at 6 p.m., the meet is open to anyone interested in participating. Rosemount gymnastics coach Jason Passeri -- who is volunteer coaching for the REAL team -- has seen athletes range from 4 years old to 73 years old at all-comers meet. Athletes don't need to belong to a club to participate in the event.

Registration begins 5:15 for Rosemount's all-comers meet on Friday, July 16 and the fee is $10 per athlete for unlimited events.

Now hosting its first meet, the club has come a long way in a short time.

The club began organizing during the winter and started practice on June 1.

With Jalivay as the driving force and Hatleli offering facilities and equipment, the club took shape quickly.

"Jay offered and I took him up on it," Jalivay said. "It's a lot of work. We went about asking track and field coaches, football coaches, and basketball coaches out there. My husband and I know Shani Marks. So, we asked her if she would be involved. It just flowered into this beautiful thing for kids. It developed because people donated their time and efforts."

Marks, a 2008 Olympic triple jumper from Apple Valley, is one of several coaches.

While Hatleli isn't coaching, his offer of facilities and equipment played a pivotal role.

"The biggest thing they needed was facilities and equipment and I knew I could certainly be the go-between there," Hatleli said. "The only thing I wanted out of it was to generate more interest locally.

"Track is a numbers game. Any time you can get more kids to develop an interest in the sport it's going to be a positive for the high school program."

The club is composed mainly of athletes from Rosemount, Eagan and Apple Valley. The development of the club has also attracted interest from athletes from Burnsville, Farmington and Lakeville. About a third of the members are from Rosemount, including Jalivay's two kids.

The athletes range in grade levels from kindergarten through 12th grade and compete in nine age divisions.

The team has participated in several types of meets since June. After an AAU meet earlier this month, several REAL athletes qualified for the Junior Olympics in Virginia Beach, Va. in August. From REAL, Steven Wilson, Eric Wilson, Derrick Mora, Tom Jancik, Cole Jalivay, Lindsey Jalivay, Jake Gourley, Maddie Gourley, Molly Cooke, Mitchell Cooke, Natalie Windels, Elena Windels, Katharine Torres, Alana Lopez, Kelly Prask and Courtney Clark all advanced to the Junior Olympics.

Gourley, a seventh-grader from Eagan, finished first in the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter races in a regional meet earlier this season. Last weekend, she won the 400 in a regional meet in Iowa.

Track and field isn't often the first sport that comes to mind for school-age athletes during the summer, but Hatleli points out that most track competitions post high-school are during the heat of the summer.

Passeri, a former high school track athlete himself, said the summer competitions are larger than many people realize. Passeri has two daughter involved with REAL and knows the rewards that come with the summer work.

"I'm a big advocate for children's fitness," Passeri said. "I'd rather see kids out there running and competing than inside playing Playstation. It's a district thing and we have a lot of Rosemount kids. I like to see that. It helps all of our programs."

Hatleli knows any local interest in track and field can only be a benefit to his program.

"I think we are in a spot that very few are statewide, where we seem to reload with good, quality kids from good, quality families," Hatleli said of his team. "You can see it with this club, at this young age, you have more and more coming in. I think we can sustain this and maintain an elite program for a long time.

"A lot of it has to do with the parents and kids that want to put in the work. Rosemount is a good place to be a track coach right now."