BELLAIRE - The annual Bellaire Relays will be held on Saturday, April 26.
There will be some new faces on hand at Nelson Field that day, too.
For the first time in the meet's history, there will also be girls taking part in the meet.
Big Reds' head track coach Shawn Valloric confirmed the addition of females this week.
"It was always nice to showcase the boys and girls by themselves, but in this day and age of expenses, busing costs, etc., it's just more logistical for the boys and girls to compete at the same place on the same day," Valloric said.
The move will eliminate the Bellaire Girls Invitational, which was held the second weekend in April. It formerly coinscided with the Dick Dei Invitational at Wheeling Park, which was just a boys' meet. However, it added girls last year.
"We've talked about doing this probably for the last two years," Valloric said. "I've reached out to the teams and informed them of the addition of girls, and I'd say about 90 percent still indicated they'd be there."
Bellaire Relays stories never run out or get old. From the impressive marks posted to how the athletes used to be housed by folks within the community the night before the meet.
Valloric admitted there's been some concern about whether or not the addition of girls will affect the meet's tradition.
"There's a little bit of worry, but it's also getting to the point where some of the old traditions have gone by the wayside," Valloric said.
"It's more financially feasible for teams to send both teams."
Along with the Mansfield Mehock Relays and the Roosevelt Relays in Dayton, the Bellaire Relays is one of the state's oldest meets. But, as more and more schools have added all-weather tracks, the need and desire to travel all over Ohio has evaporated.
"The days of the 70-team meets are over," Valloric said. "In the 50s or 60s, we had the only all-weather surface."
In recent years, the Bellaire Relays has still attracted a very impressive field of teams comprised from in and out of the Ohio Valley.
"The boys has been holding steady at about 16 or 17 teams, so it's been OK," Valloric said. "But, last year, our girls' invitational only had six or seven teams. We survived, but we knew it was probably time to combine the two."
Valloric is hoping for a solid 16 boys and 16 girls team field. He's capping the list at 20.
"I know the Shadyside Relays usually draws 20 or 22 boys and girls teams, but they've been doing both for many years," Valloric said. "I want to see how we can handle a larger meet with boys and girls. Our meets usually run without a hitch and we want to continue that."
While the Bellaire Girls Invitational is off the calendar, the annual Dave Ice Girls Invitational, which used to be held on Thursday prior to the Bellaire Relays, will continue.
It's moving to May 1, which is the Thursday before the OVAC begins.
"Dave Ice was very important to our program and entire school, so we'll definitely be keeping that meet," Valloric said. "It may move around on the calendar because of where extra weeks fall, but we'll always find a spot for it."
Also this season, the Bellaire Early Bird, which had been limited to six Belmont County schools, is expanding.
"I would like to grow it to 12 teams," Valloric offered. "In this day and age, we're trying to get more people at the meet."
All meets at Nelson Field this spring will be utilizing a fully automatic timing system, which was jointly purchased by the Touchdown Club and the athletic department.
"I basically let the Touchdown Club know that with us having a boys and girls meet, it's important for us to not only have accurate timing, but it makes things go quicker," Valloric said.
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