The University of Kansas saw the spectacular sights and sounds of the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Championships. Rock Chalk Park became home to well over 1,000 athletes and even more spectators over the course of the meet’s week-long run.
Those in attendance were also treated to having the opportunity to have a meet and greet, as well as motivational messages from former American decathlete and two-time Olympic champion, Ashton Eaton, as well as nine-time Olympic gold medalist, Carl Lewis and former decathlon world record holder, world champion and Olympic gold medalist, Dan O’Brien.
After a week full of rain delays, records set, and one Daniel Skandera, we wanted to know what athletes thought of this year’s championships and asked them to share with us.
Leaving It All On The Track
“I'd say my favorite thing about going to the Junior Olympics was bonding with my team, and also being able to compete with the best in the nation. For my race, I was the fourth leg of the 4x800 meter relay. My other teammates ran really well and put me in fifth at the start of my run. When I got the stick, my adrenaline was pumping, and I knew I had to perform my best. Just as my coach would say, "Leave it all on the track." So, I did just that. I spent the whole race chasing after the runner ahead of me. Eventually, at the last 100 meters, I caught up to him and began to gain on him. He put up a fight but I told myself that if I didn't pass him, I would regret it. We were neck to neck at the finish, but because I ran through the line and kept on pushing, I ended up beating him and got fourth place with my team.” - Cody Ewing
Reflections And Batman
“This was my fifth time at the national meet, and I was coming off of a REALLY bad year. I was just nervous that I would disappoint everyone again. After four hours stuck in the warm up area and pouring rain, I ran a bad 200 race; I was crushed. For the rest of the day, I felt miserable.
But we were staying the same hotel as (Bershawn) Batman Jackson, and he gave me a talk about his life and his experience as an athlete. It gave me the kick in the butt that I needed. I went out there the next day and left a sixth place All-American. My spirits were lifted even going into the 100. I missed the semifinals by 2 people, but I ran a great race and I couldn't be upset with the result.
The rest of the week was a ton of fun with all of my teammates and seeing all of these people from all around the US come together to see records being broken and championships won. I'm happy I left as an All-American and I can't wait until next year. It's just an awesome experience to be in the same shoes as these amazing athletes. I NEVER thought Batman Jackson would give me the time of day. That talk I got from him will forever resonate with me, and I'm grateful that I met him!” - Neysia Howard
New Faces And New Titles
“My favorite part of this years’ Junior Olympics was meeting so many new people who all compete in, and love the same sport I do, as well as being able to compete against the best of the best in my age group. Having earned the title ‘national champion’ is a plus as well, of course.” - Evan Holland
Sights And Sounds
“Some of my favorite moments in Lawrence Kansas was walking out and seeing the track. It was breathtaking and it really hit me that I was in the Junior Olympics. I could hear the crowd cheering on the athletes as I soaked in the environment around me. Another one of my favorite moments from the championships was when I stepped on the javelin runway. I heard the official say, "Paige you are up," and everything became silent. When I started my approach I could just feel the adrenaline. The best part was seeing my name on the scoreboard with a big ‘one’ next to my placement.” - Paige Revercomb
I Made Mom Proud
“One of my favorite parts was definitely getting to meet other girls across the nation who have the same passion for running as I do. It's hard to find people who share that drive and that passion but at nationals, I get to learn that there are people like me out there. Another really great part was stepping down off the podium after my 4th place 3000 finish and my mom just being so amazed. We didn't think I would do this well and it was great to see her so happy and so proud.” - Jackie Addy.
“I ran in the pentathlon and I had a great time meeting new people, learning the pentathlon on a national level and being in that meet in general. Being from Maine, it was quite a hot meet but the day I competed it was not that bad. My best events that day were the hurdles, the high jump, and the 800. I got two new PR's in the hurdles in the high jump, and though I didn't PR, I ended up winning my heat for the 800 and placing second overall in that event. I scored 2445 points which put me in 20th. I definitely could've done better if I had scored more points in the long jump and the shot put, but as of right now I'm going to use it as an experience and use it to make me want to train all year to compete in the heptathlon.” - Kylie Bedard.
You’re Better Than You Thought
“I'd say my favorite moment is being up on the podium at the award ceremony when they call your name and everyone claps for you. Even people not on your team. It's a good feeling of accomplishment and shows that you ARE good!” - Ethan Carney
All-American and Olympians
“It was really, really, really a heartfelt moment for me. I never thought I would be an All-American in the 4x100 meter relay, but I wouldn’t have been in that position if it wasn’t for the coach that broke his back for us and made us the young men we are. My favorite part was meeting Olympians that I had never heard of before.”- Kyron Dunn
Hanging With The Best Of The Best
“I competed in the 1500 and the 2000 steeplechase and became a second time All-American in the steeplechase. I also had fun being there in Kansas at the track with friends from my region and my state. It was another great experience to compete at the top level!” - Colton Ross
“The biggest highlight of the 2017 Junior Olympic meet was the atmosphere. Not only competing alongside, but watching other athletes put their hearts out on the track & seeing them come together as a team to achieve unbelievable marks was truly inspiring! - Melanie Marquis