Less than a week after coaching the Stillwater Ponies to a state track and field championship, coach Scott Christensen was working with a slightly less experienced group of athletes on Thursday during the 34th Annual Pony Track Camp at Stillwater Junior High School.
Christensen, whose teams have won five state titles in track and five in cross country — not to mention 24 individual gold medals in those sports — is conducting a camp for athletes age 4 through 8th grade that wrapped with races on Friday. Approximately 150 participants are participating this year.
“This is the most we’ve ever had,” said Christensen, whose wife Shelly Christensen and eight Ponies track athletes are among those filling out the coaching staff. “We had to turn away about 15 people and that’s still a lot of groups on the track.”
The coach plans to run two sessions next year, which is not something he would have expected when starting the camp more than three decades ago.
“The first year we did it 12 kids showed up,” Christensen said. “It slowly grew to about 25 and it just puttered along.”
Christensen’s schedule this summer includes an upcoming USA Track and Field clinic in Stillwater for college and elite high school coaches, speaking engagements as far away as North Carolina and an exercise science class he’s teaching at Loyola University in Chicago, but he also enjoys youngsters just getting started.
“Without any other grass roots organization in the district for track and field, this is their introduction,” said Christensen, who also conducts all-comers meets for primarily younger athletes on Wednesday nights in June.
The coach admits he seriously considered discontinuing the camp about a decade ago before having a change of heart.
“After year 25 I had grown so tired of it because you had to plan it and it became a bigger administrative deal than it had been, so I was going to end it,” Christensen said. “I said I didn’t want to do track camp and if I do it will be my last one.
“I was thinking about that right around the start of practice in March and said to the 120 or 130 guys, just out of curiosity how many had ever been to my track camp and just about everyone raised their hand. I said, I can’t ever quit this thing.”