Photo: Young runners race in Jackson Park as part of city track program

First through 4th graders got a taste of track and field sports Saturday morning as Mayor Lightfoot’s Fastest Kids in Chicago Race to Gately Park competition kicked off with a Track Experience program for younger runners in Jackson Park.

Half a dozen kids showed up at 9 a.m. for the first of the day’s two sessions. The Track Experience program was designed for runners too young to participate in the main Race to Gately Park competition, which starts in June.

Kendra Bascomb, a Chicago Park District physical instructor at Palmer Park, looked around the Jackson Park track and field for kids in her group, who were wearing an orange sticky dot, as she explained what the sessions would entail. 

“We are going to do warm-ups and then we are going to break off into groups,” said Bascomb. “Each group is going to do different activities with kids, and we are sprinting and jogging.”

Then Bascomb held up an orange flag. Zora Baker, who was wearing an orange sticky dot, saw Bascomb raise the flag and came running over. Not far behind Zora were her younger brother Malcom and their dad.

I asked Zora what she was looking forward to. 

“I’m not actually sure,” she responded and then, with a squeal, said, “I just want to race.”

As Bascomb stood on the track and got Zora to line up next to her for a practice race, they were joined by another Park District instructor, Renate Ware.

Bascomb said, ”Go,” and the three sprinted down the track. Zora’s dad watched, holding her brother Malcolm who was squirming to get on the ground and run himself.

Zora was focused; she leaned forward as she ran, intent and smiling, happy to be racing.

To find out more about the Track Experience program and the Race to Gately Park competition, visit

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