A decision made on a whim has resulted in an all-expense-paid trip to a chocolate wonderworld for Juneau's Daniel Turner.
Daniel, 10, a student at Harborview Elementary School and the son of Steve Turner and Sheila Corey, has qualified to compete in the 50-meter dash at the 25th annual Hershey's Track and Field Youth Program North American Final Meet later this week in Hershey, Pa. He earned the trip based on his winning time at the local qualifying meet on May 19.
In addition to the track meet on Aug. 10, the four days in Hershey will include a tour of the Hershey's chocolate factory, an afternoon in the Hersheypark theme park and time in a town so devoted to chocolate that the street lights are shaped like Hershey's Kisses.
But Daniel's participation in the local meet was almost by chance. His family wanted to enjoy the good weather, and had seen an advertisement for the track meet at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
"It was a nice day, so we thought we'd go out and do it," he said.
Turner turned in a winning time of 7.93 seconds in the 50-meter dash, and won the 100-meter dash in 15.67 seconds. But Daniel and his family had no idea of the significance of those times for weeks.
"We left, and thought that was the end of it," Corey said.
In July, the family received a call from Zach Gordon Youth Center manager and local meet organizer Kristi West, who informed them that Daniel's time in the 50-meter dash was good enough to qualify him as a regional representative to the North American meet. Alaska's region also includes Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, British Columbia and Yukon Territory.
"We had no idea that was the next step (after the local meet)," Corey said.
Daniel has done some running in the past outside of gym class, including the Harborview Fun Run and a Fourth of July race in Skagway. He is also active in Juneau's Glacier Swim Club. He has been preparing for the potentially stifling Pennsylvania heat by drinking lots of water the past few weeks.
What is Daniel looking forward to the most?
"Chocolate!," he said, adding, "I think it would be really cool to win - and the theme park will be really cool, too."
Other Alaska kids participating in the Hershey's North American Final Meet this year are Valdez's Maggie Embick and Kodiak's Brandon Miller, who had region-best times in the girls' age 11-12 standing long jump and boys' 13-14 softball throw, respectively.
Also making the trip to Pennsylvania are Sadie Arneson of Soldotna in the girls' age 9-10 200-meter run and Jamie Auldridge of Nikiski in the girls' age 11-12 100-meter run.
Four Juneau girls - Van Marie Jackson, Letasha McKoy, Katrina Edwards and Hollie Tolland - competed in the North American final in Hershey in 1997 in the 400-meter relay.
Last year, Alaska's contingent to Hershey included three Southeast athletes - Rigel Falvey of Haines in the girls' age 13-14 200-meter run; Bryn Calhoun of Sitka in the boys' 11-12 softball throw; and Korina Chapman of Sitka in the girls' 9-10 softball throw.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.