Acadia Relays promote gender equity in track and field

Kirk Starratt
Published on May 7, 2014

Central Kings Grade 12 student Hillary Dort and Grade 10 student Noah Shankel participated in the 2X1,600-metre at the revived Acadia Relays.

©Kirk Starratt

Men and women don’t normally get to compete in co-ed events as part of high school track and field meets, but gender equity was the order of the day at the revived Acadia Relays.

The relays were held at Acadia University’s Raymond Field in Wolfville on May 3, featuring co-ed events, including the 2x1,600-metre and the 4x200-metre relays. There were a total of six team relay races, as well as the long jump, shot put and Special Olympics 100-metre races for both men and women.

Click here to see results.

Central Kings Grade 12 student Hillary Dort, who teamed up with Grade 10 student Noah Shankel for the co-ed 2x1,600-metre, said this was her first time competing in the event. Last year – the first time since 1967 that the Acadia Relays had been held – she took part in the 4x200-metre.

“It’s nice to run with friends and compete against different competitors from other schools you normally wouldn’t get to compete with,” she said.

The atmosphere was “competitive with the same gender,” Dort said, but it was more relaxed and fun than a regular track and field meet.

Shankel said the Acadia Relays is the only time they get to participate in co-ed track and field events and “it’s fun to see how it turns out.”

“It would certainly be more interesting if there were more co-ed events,” he said.

Shankel said he was having a good time. He and Dort placed fourth in their event.

Organizer Richard Foot said Raymond Field was the birthplace of provincial high school track and field meets in Nova Scotia and the history involved is close to his heart. He competed in the Acadia Relays in the 1960s and pointed out that many of the volunteers involved are Acadia alumni.

In 1926, the relays became an invitational meet. The event grew bigger with time and became the site of the provincial high school track and field meets until 1967.

Foot, a retired educator and coach, said he was teaching part-time at Acadia in 2007 when the new track opened at Raymond Field. Discussion about bringing back an open invitational track and field meet began then. Fundraising also began to build the remaining field infrastructure needed to host such a meet.

He described the relays as “a new co-educational equity competition, where boys and girls aren’t separate entirely,” and pointed out that “gender equity is important across the educational spectrum.”

Foot was also pleased to see the Special Olympics races added.

“We wanted to make this open and accessible,” he said.

Foot expects it will take about five years for word of the relays to spread and for the event to grow to its full potential. The relays were open to all schools in the province this year, although the greatest participation came from schools in western Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation executive director Darrell Dempster said all their sports have evolved so they provide equal opportunities to all. For example, if a school has a boys’ hockey team but no girls’ team and there are girls who want to play, they can try out for the team the same as the boys.

Dempster said the Acadia Relays are a wonderful event and points out that their mandate is school athletics, but also bringing students, volunteers and other community members together.

“The medals are nice but the relationships built over time are important,” he said.

To watch a video featuring highlights from the Special Olympics races and the co-ed 2x1,600-metre relay, click HERE.