Severna Park resident organizes second annual Community Olympics, a two-week, five-neighborhood sporting event

Keeping neighbors active

July 19, 2006|By JONI GUHNE | JONI GUHNE,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Betz Wild believes there's more to life than sitting on the sidelines of a sporting event watching your kids have all the fun, and she takes her own advice to heart.

Wild is doing everything she can to encourage every adult she knows that the sporting life is the road to happiness. For the second year, she has organized her version of a summer sports camp for adults.

She calls it the Community Olympics.

This year's competition increased from one week to two -- July 8 to July 23 -- and from three neighborhoods to five. The original participants, Whitehurst, Oakleigh Forest and Fair Oaks, have been joined by newcomers Cape Arthur and North Cape Arthur.

A network of neighborhood captains recruited players and assisted Wild with scheduling. A couple of licensed officials living in the area agreed to make the calls at basketball games, she said.

Wild said yesterday that about 250 people have participated in the games, with many more coming to watch.

"The night of volleyball was crazy; we had people everywhere," Wild said. She said the games have provided a good chance for several new families in the community to meet their neighbors.

The Severna Park-area event, which involves the communities along Arundel Beach Road, grew out of Wild's passion for sports.

She is on a county 15-and-over field hockey team made up of Severna Park High School coaches and alumni -- Wild graduated in 1982 -- that has been the county champion for four years.

"The kids are on the sidelines yelling, `Yea, mom!' Parents should do this stuff," said Wild, who was named to the SPHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004 for her field hockey contributions. A gym teacher at St. Martin's in the Field School, Wild is in charge of the athletic development of students in grades one through eight.

"I play with the kids," said Wild, 42, who lives in Whitehurst with her husband, Bill, an Anne Arundel County police officer and their three children, ages 14, 9 and 3. "The children love it. `Mrs. Wild's going to play,' they shout. That's what the kids need to see."

Wild's father, Jan Sprinkel, and her mother, Beth Sprinkel, set goals for their three children. "Always the first ones in the pool and the last ones out," said Wild. "They organized their Whitehurst neighbors into teams for competitive rowing, sailing and swimming more than 20 years ago."

Using a CD player with a long extension cord, the Community Olympics started to the strains of the national anthem and the Olympic theme song. (Kayak races have a distinctive start, a blast from the Whitehurst cannon.)

Competition in softball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, golf, horseshoes, a 5-kilometer run, a 6-mile bike race and the kayak races takes place every day until the closing ceremonies Sunday at Folger McKinsey Elementary School.

Weekday games start about 6 p.m., and weekend events run throughout the day.

An 18-hole round of golf for the "serious golfers" was held at Compass Point Golf Course, said Wild, and "any other golfer" could play par-3 holes at Severna Park Golf.

"We try to keep the games close for local appeal," Wild said before the games began. Events have been held on school playgrounds, and at Cypress Creek Park and the Cape Arthur community beach.

Participants wear their community colors; Whitehurst's is blue, and neighborhood children painted community logos on banners made of sheets. The Whitehurst design is a nautical "W" in a series of squares in red, white and blue, Wild said.

The games were open to anyone 21 or older, but Wild warned her contemporaries about the ringers on summer break from college who show up with youthful strength intact, such as the 23-year-old last year who had no trouble knocking all the other women out of the water in the kayak race.

Teams practiced several times a week in preparation for the big games.

The 2006 games featured a new co-ed kayak relay. Two-person teams -- not husbands and wives, said Wild, because they don't want any more conflict other than what happens in the race -- start on shore, run to the water carrying their kayaks trying to maintain their balance, paddle to a designated spot, return, hit the ground running and tag their fellow team members before that pair can start the final leg of the race.

Wild said there is plenty to cheer about. At last year's Sunday morning 5-K race, the starting gun was delayed for a few minutes while everyone waited for two cyclists, Kevin Reynolds and Maria Bernard, to finish the bike race and get to the starting line for the run.

Wild said, "Wait, they're on their way," just as a van pulled up and they jumped out changing from biking to running shoes as they went. Reynolds placed in both races.

The Olympic fans are as dedicated as the participants. Last year at the basketball games in Whitehurst, Wild set up tents for the audience and sprinklers for the kids. Turnout for the events was "crazy," she said. At the horseshoe competition, she said, "I pulled out 10 or 15 chairs, but I could have used 40."

Winners receive specially designed water bottles.

Wild keeps track of the number of participants through the total in fees collected. A player pays $5 for each event he or she enters, the proceeds going to three charities: the Severna Park Assistance Network, the Sharing Foundation and the Annapolis Lighthouse Shelter for the Homeless. Participants may designate which charity they would like to receive their money.

"People who aren't doing any events want to contribute because they love to come and watch," said Wild. "The games have proved so popular among those on the sidelines cheering for their favorite players."

Wild thinks the event can raise $2,000 this year.

"The good thing is that someone else is benefiting from all our fun," Wild said.

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