TRACK: Cepero Memorial Track Meet returns after COVID-19 hiatus

Like many events around the world last year, the annual Dr. Daniel Cepero Memorial Track and Field Meet was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although meet organizer Stella Neboh always felt like track and field was a naturally socially distant sport, she didn’t want to risk anyone getting exposed to the virus.

Holding the event this year shouldn’t be too much of an issue for Neboh, considering that she and many coaches from the West Texas Track Club have been vaccinated.

To ensure safety, Neboh still encourages her athletes to wear masks during practice and she’ll ask parents and spectators to maintain a safe distance in the stands during the meet.

This year’s meet starts at 6 p.m. Thursday with Tiny Tots track and field events at Ratliff Stadium.

Events resume at 4:30 p.m. Friday, with everything set to conclude Saturday after a 7:30 a.m. start.

Although last year’s cancelation had a large impact on the athletic events, it also affected the way the West Texas Track Club normally awards scholarships.

Neboh planned to present scholarships for high school graduates at last week’s Nik Moralez Meet and this week’s competition.

A slight change will happen this year, as members of last year’s graduating class are being invited to return and apply.

“We will award scholarships for 2020 high school graduates,” Neboh said. “They can come back and register under the master’s class because the youth is from 2 up till 17.”

Scholarships will be presented to those who register, compete and meet the required criteria.

Missing out on the chance to help last year’s high school seniors left Neboh feeling angry and hurt.

She was frustrated because a lot of those track athletes have been running through the West Texas Track Club’s summer program since they were toddlers.

“Even though we’re going back and giving it to them this year, I personally think it’s just not the same,” Neboh said. “I think we made the best decision because with the way COVID was going, I was not willing to expose anybody out there.”

Setting up the meet after a year-long hiatus and keeping the athletes in shape has been a group effort between the track club’s assistant coaches and Neboh’s family.

Coaching every competing age group has been a requirement for Neboh’s sons every summer.

She said the last time they took a family vacation was somewhere between 15 to 20 years ago.

“It takes a lot of work,” Neboh said. “As soon as I finish this track meet, I’m already working for the next year.”

The meet coordinator will work in advance with the City of Odessa to set up factors like stadium usage, timing systems and officials.

Without the city’s help, Neboh believes it would be difficult to hold any sort of competition.

She is excited to have everyone back on the track this week, estimating that the West Texas Track Club has around 500 kids registered to compete.

One of the most rewarding experiences for Neboh is seeing her competitors grow up through the summer track program and go on to have successful futures.

“It’s been exciting, I love it,” Neboh said. “I just enjoy every minute of it.”

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