Sam Green knows his youth track and field club, Elite Feet for Athletes, is headed in the right direction by the calls he gets from the athletes he trains all but begging him to go run Bains Gap Mountain.

“They call me up and say, ‘Coach, I need the mountain. I need to get faster,”’ Green said. “That let’s me know they trust my work ethic. Sometimes, I switch my workouts just so they can do what they want because they know what they need to improve on.”

Green, who just completed his first season as head track coach at Saks, can also look at the number of athletes who have qualified for the Amateur Athletics Union Junior Olympics. The club will send a group of 16 to Houston for the games held July 30-Aug. 5.

“Usually, we only send two or three,” said Green, who’s in his sixth year guiding the club.

The qualifiers include 12 high school-aged athletes, two middle schoolers and two elementary school children, ranging in age from eight to 18. In order to qualify for the games, participants had to place in the top 16 at a district meet in Montgomery. Then, they had to finish in the top five at the Area 6 Championships held on the University of Tennessee’s campus in Knoxville last week.

Both the women’s 400 and 1,600-meter relay teams will compete in Texas. Those squads are comprised of Green’s daughter, Piedmont senior-to-be Tivis, and Deara Welch, Apryl Lewis and Jasmine Heard, all of Anniston.

Heard also qualified in the 1,500-meter run.

The boys 400-meter relay team of Saks’ Chris Berry and Cole Thompson, Wellborn’s Corri Tignor and Anniston’s Damontae Miller will also run in Houston. Thompson also qualified in the long jump.

Anniston’s Vashard Wilson, a state champion in Class 4A this past spring, qualified in the 100-meter dash. Andre Patton, a state champion in the 200 and The Star’s Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year, qualified in the 200-meter dash in the young men’s division.

Anniston’s L.J. Heard (100 and 200) and Rayburn Price qualified in the 400. Miller will also run the 400.

“I’m too excited,” Tivis Green said. “We do a lot to keep up with the pace of the races. We work hard every day in practice.”

The team trains four days a week at McClellan, going two and a half hours during three of those sessions.

Sam Green said he attributes the team’s increased success this summer to a jump in participants. More than 30 kids are running this summer. That’s more than double the number Elite Feet had in years past.

“If a kid comes up to me and says, ‘Coach, I want to run’, I never turn anybody down,” Green said. “Even the slowest kid, I want to make him the fastest kid.”

They’ve raised money to fund their efforts through donations along with fundraisers such as raffles and car washes. They also have to use money from their own pockets.

Green, who’s working on his master’s degree in education at Jacksonville State, said his love for children and track make all the hustle and hard work worth it.

“I just want to be able to help kids accelerate and see kids do things they never thought they’d be able to,” he said.

Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at  256-235-3575 . Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.

Read more: Anniston Star - 16 locals headed to track Junior Olympics