Local youth craves return trip
Conner Kietzmann takes 4th at Hershey Games, hopes to run again in ‘06
Conner Kietzmann admits he doesn't a have an intense sweet tooth.
But after competing at the Hershey Games in Hershey, Pa., earlier this month, the 10-year-old has a definite hankering for a return trip to the chocolate city.
Conner, competing against runners from across the United States and Canada, placed fourth in the 400 in the 9-10 age division.
"It was fun," Conner said. "It went well."
Conner finished the race in 1 minute, 11 seconds, about two seconds slower than his state time.
Before the race, Conner had a false start and had to prepare for the race a second time.
At the Hershey's meet, Conner said athletes were allowed a false start.
"As it would anybody, it kind of threw him a little bit," said Jill Kietzmann, who is Conner's mother. "He did good. He did really good, he just didn't look as smooth as he usually does."
However, the false start, Conner said, didn't faze him. "It didn't really make me nervous," he said. "I just knew I needed to do what I needed to do."
Kisses all around
When Conner wasn't running in the track meet, he and his family were hanging out at the Hershey's amusement park.
In addition, the meet participants and families had the opportunity to tour the Hershey's factory -- quite the treat, Jill said, because the company no longer opens the factory for public tours.
During the tour, the Kietzmann's saw how the "Kiss Line" operated, as workers moved Hershey's Kisses down the line.
The line normally is operated at night, but Jill said the workers came in during the day so the athletes could see the operation.
While Kisses were being made at the factory, a Hershey's Kiss mascot greeted athletes at the airport when they flew into Pennsylvania.
During the Hershey's Games, the Kiss mascot, along with Reese's, Kit-Kat and Hershey bar mascots raced one another in the stadium. During both races, Conner said one of Kiss's shoes fell off.
Conner said he was rooting for the Hershey bar and the Kiss.
"Reese's and Kit-Kat I don't really like," Conner said.
Incidentally, Kit-Kat won the 100-meter race and Reese's won the 50-meter race.
The week before Conner was to compete in the track meet, a flu bug hit the Kietzmann family.
Jill said every member of the family had the flu -- except Conner.
Jill and Conner's father, Chad, were worried that their track star also would come down with a cold, but that never occurred.
The Hershey Meet marked Conner's first trip to Pennsylvania -- and his first flight.
"It was pretty good," Conner said. "Going up and taking off, it kind of messes with my stomach and going down it messes with my stomach a little more."
Conner and his father flew into Philadelphia and then took a smaller plane on a 20-minute flight to Harrisburg, which is near Hershey.
Jill, along with her parents and Chad's father, flew to Baltimore and then did some sight-seeing in Washington, D.C., before heading to Hershey.
Jill said that nearly all the athletes, including those who lived near Hershey, were flown in so they could experience flying
"I was really impressed with the company and all they did for the kids," Jill said.
Now that Conner is back in Kansas, he hopes he can qualify for Hershey again next summer. When spring rolls around, he'll compete for Genesis Christian Academy in track and then train for another shot at Hershey.
"His goal is to make it back to the national meet again," Jill said. "It was a great experience."
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