Chicago track and field events to find ‘Chicago’s fastest’ kids, celebrate opening of new Gately Park athletics center

·3 min read

The Chicago Park District is returning to the roots of many of its youth programs this spring and summer by sponsoring a track and field competition for young people, pegged to the opening of a new indoor athletics center in the Pullman area.

“Chicago’s Fastest ... The Race to Gately,” a competition with numerous track and field events for kids, was announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., the Park District and Chicago Public Schools recently. The events began May 22 and will be held across various locations in Chicago through July 10.

The city will provide a one-day “Track Experience” at various locations for those in grades one to four. Activities will include dynamic drills, sprints, hops and other games. The first program was held May 22 and will be followed by one on June 5 at the newly opened Gately Park Indoor Track and Field Facility, 10201 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

The competitions are part of the Park District’s historic mission to get children involved in athletics.

“Throughout the history of the Chicago Park District, sports competitions and tournaments were considered a great way to inspire children and to give them an opportunity to meet and have positive interactions with residents of other neighborhoods and different parts of the city,” said former Chicago Park District historian Julia Bachrach.

For this year’s events, the city will also host a qualifying competition, the “Race to Gately” for students in grades five to 12 on June 12, 19 and 26. The race will consist of a 60-meter sprint. On those days, the competition will be held at Lindblom Park, Jackson Park, Lincoln Park at Wilson Avenue and La Follette Park in the mornings, and Dunbar Park, Marshall High School, Brooks High School and Steinmetz High School in the afternoons.

The top five fastest times at each location per grade and gender will advance to the final competition to be held at the Indoor Gately Track Center on July 10.

The track and field events aim to provide children and teenagers with athletic opportunities as Chicago moves toward reopening as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes here.

“After the difficult year we’ve had and with our city beginning to open back up, it is essential that we get our young people outdoors and keep them engaged as they chase after their dreams both literally and figuratively,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “The Race to Gately will do just that by giving young people across our city a chance to have fun with other young people their age and help to restore their sense of normalcy through an exciting sports competition.”

The Gately Indoor Track and Field Center is a 139,000-square-foot complex consisting of a 200-meter track, and various volleyball and basketball courts, fitness rooms and green spaces.

The center is a part of Gately Park, which was established in 1947 and has a history of organizing various sports events year-round, according to Bachrach. The park was established after World War II, as a part of the 10-year Chicago Park District plan. The plan aimed to increase recreational opportunities for residents of Chicago during the baby boom, when there was a rise in neighborhood populations, added Bachrach.

The competitions will adhere to city and state health and safety guidelines. In addition to the parks and city, the program is supported by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Independent Schools, Archdiocese of Chicago Schools, the Chicago Public Library, the YMCA of Chicago and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago.

Participants are required to register in advance and will receive a T-shirt, certificate and additional awards on qualification. Online registration is available on the Park District’s website. People can also email with questions.