TRACK: Tiny Tots program becomes annual tradition at Cepero Track Meet

The annual Dr. Daniel Cepero Memorial Track Meet has become a summer staple in the Permian Basin by bringing out kids and parents from across the area.

On the opening night at Ratliff Stadium Thursday, it was the youngest competitors, known as the Tiny Tots, who took center stage.

Kids from 2-to-6 years old competed in field events as well as the 400-meter relay and 50-yard dash.

For Eugene Neboh, seeing the growth that the kids make throughout their time competing in the meet and as a part of the West Texas Track Club is among the most rewarding aspects of volunteering his time.

“As they get older and start to comprehend everything, even to 9 or 10 years old, they’re still applying the same concepts that we teach them,” Neboh said. “It comes easy to them.”

Neboh and his brothers are among the many coaches who volunteer their time as part of the club.

In some cases, the coaches currently working with the club were Tiny Tots themselves at one point in time, including 19-year-old Cassie Grajeda.

She started with the club when she was 2 and started coaching when she turned 16.

Paisley Tarpley competes in a “Tiny Tots” relay at the annual Dr. Daniel Cepero Track & Field meet Thursday at Ratliff Stadium .(Odessa American|Jacob Ford)

She says that she enjoys seeing the kids get a chance to try something new and how much they learn.

“I love seeing their little faces at practice and seeing them compete and telling me how much they love it,” Grajeda said. “They just say thank you for helping them and everything like that.”

Grajeda added that she feels that she’s paying it forward by being a part of the same program that helped her growing up.

“I’m just teaching them ways to come in and enjoy their summer instead of just staying home,” she said.

The program has also received plenty of good feedback from parents and grandparents like Scarlett Collins.

Her granddaughter, 6-year-old Presley, is among the more than 300 Tiny Tots competing this weekend.

“She’s been doing it since she was three and she loves it,” Collins said. “I think it’s just going to help her as she gets older.”

Another parent seeing the growth in his children is Arnold Rodriguez.

Daughters Aria (6) and 3-year-old Adalyn, are both in their first year participating in the meets.

Gideon Ayorinde, 6, left, and Benson Yee, 6, compete for second place in the annual Dr. Daniel Cepero Track & Field meet Thursday at Ratliff Stadium .(Odessa American|Jacob Ford)

“It started off with Aria enjoying it and I can see how far she’s progressed in practice,” Rodriguez said. “Adalyn is also really flourishing as well.”

Rodriguez added that he sees both of his daughters continuing to pursue track as they grow up and wants to encourage other parents to get their kids involved as well.

“I say to definitely give it a shot because it’s good for the kids to see how they’re embracing their competitive spirit while still being friendly,” he said. “It’s also good to see the parents engaged and involved in what their children are doing.”

Parents and coaches embraced the chance to compete and be together, especially after being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neboh added that the number of people signing up in the Tiny Tots program is more than double than the last meet in 2019. He attributes the growth to two things.

“First and foremost, God, because you need a lot of volunteers and a lot of blessings and second I would say just by word of mouth,” he said. “My brothers and I along with the volunteers are doing positive things and being respectful to the kids so I would attribute the growth to just being positive.”