Local All-Star Track Club Shines at AAU National Championships

Michael David, February 26, 2010 12:29 p.m. Carter Johnson, Kellie Littlejohn and Andrew Hunt with Olympic gold medalist Maurice Greene

The Michigan All-Stars Track Team, a locally based youth track team which specializes in helping and promoting local disadvantaged youths, along with providing academic monitoring and support, travelled last weekend to Bloomington, Il to compete in the AAU National Indoor Track Championships, along with many other track clubs from around the country. Although the primary goal of the trip was to compete at Nationals and give the kids exposure that would increase their self esteem, self confidence and garner national notice for the high school athletes that could lead to college scholarship offers, there were also many other lessons learned that will benefit these young athletes throughout their school careers and later in life.

The MAS team continues its drive for excellence this Indoor Track season Saturday at the MITS Indoor Track State Championships being held at Bowen Field House on the campus of EasternMichiganUniversity. The meet starts at 9am and goes all day. Doors are open at 8. The field events start off the championship in the morning and the running events, starting with 55m hurdles, start preliminary rounds at 11:30.

In addition to training future track stars, the MAS focuses on helping build strong character, discipline, team focus and prioritizes academic performance in addition to performance on the track. In this regard and as a non profit organization, the Michigan All-Stars is unique among local travel track teams. Radford Greaves, owner of Radford’s Roof Repair, a local business since 1993, underwrites the track club, along with help from a few local business and a relationship with Adidas and other affiliates. Local businesses and affiliates can enjoy a tax break for contributing to non profit organizations. With this combination, Rad as he is called, is able to provide top level training, equipment, facilities and exposure in State, Regional and National track meets. Michigan All-Stars also relies on volunteer coaching from a variety of local coaches who care deeply for kids and are committed to the cause of helping kids become successful, both on the track and in the classroom.

From the start of the weekend, the team learned how to deal with and overcome adversity when they inadvertently entered the arena through an incorrect entrance and were summarily chastised by the event Director. Rad and the other coaches used this as a teachable moment for the kids in turning around a not than perfect first impression. And an example of how to persevere, push forward and maintain focus when things don’t go your way. In the end, the MAS made a very good impression, taking home several National Championship titles, setting new National Records, and winning one of the coveted, first time Team Trophies for the Intermediate Boys Division.

Several of the kids, all local youths that run on local high school, junior high teams and even some elementary school aged kids, garnered high praise, winning over 35 medals in total. Some of the highlights include the following:

Lauryn Hunt won 2 Gold medals and a Silver medal in her

3 events – the 55m, 200m and 400m races.

EJ Medvecz won Gold in the Midget Boys Shot Put

Austin Sanders and Omar Russell earning Gold and Silver in the Intermediate Boys 400M. Austin set a new national record in the event.

The hurdling 4some of Carter Johnson, Drake Johnson, Andrew Hunt and Kellie Littlejohn ALL placed in the top 5 in the country. Drake won Gold, and set a new record in the Intermediate Boys Division; his brother Carter won Silver, narrowly missing a national championship and Andrew Hunt placed 5th in Young Men’s Division and Kellie Littlejohn placed 4th in Young Women’s Division, narrowly missing 3rd place by 1/100 of a second.

The Intermediate Boys on the team, including Austin Sanders, Omar Russell, Drake Johnson, Kabine Diane, Marc Miles, Brian Witherspoon won the Team Trophy,

Hailey Mayes placed in the top 3 in the nation of all her events in the Sub- midget Girls category, placing 2nd in the 55m and 200m and 3rd in the 400m dash.

Personal best performances from London Renfroe in the Youth Girls Division and Margorie Bothwell in the Young Women’s Division.

Although this team undoubtedly performs exceptionally well on the track, as evidenced by the stellar results from this past weekend, this is truly more than a “track club” per se. MAS is a labor of love for Radford and his coaching staff. They emphasize life lessons and focus on improving the classroom performance of their athletes, not just their performance on the track. Since this focus and program was implemented, the teams cumulative GPA has risen by 15%, according to the grades from the most recent marking period. Radford says this is where he feels MAS differs from other area track clubs. He says his kids are special and although some have come from tough circumstances,

“It's never too late to turn it around and change people’s perception of you, as long as you truly want to, and are genuine. After all that's why people/companies have invested in our program, the vast majority of our team in essence are children that are starting off on the wrong foot or a step behind in life. The tragedy about it is, these circumstances are not their fault. Many don't have a mother or father in their home, some have neither, or they weren't born a millionaire’s child, but the majority of today's professional athletes come from the exact same type of background. These professional athletes normally have someone to catch them before it's too late, and through love, teaching/coaching give them the tools to get through school, then hopefully college and then on through life successfully.” Radford Greaves, owner Rad’s Roof Repair and Michigan All-Stars

Fresh off of their team’s success at AAU National Championships, the MAS is preparing to duplicate their performance this weekend at the MITS State Indoor Track Championships. There is little doubt that last weekend prepared them for the challenge of performing well at States. This weekends meet is solely a high school event so the younger kids on the team can’t compete, although MAS does have a few kids in junior high that have matched the marks necessary to qualify and will compete against the older high school kids.

Overall, the expectation for this weekend is the same – effort over performance and always academics first. All of the kids who have qualified are academically eligible for competition. For a group of mostly disadvantaged youth, this is a high standard of achievement that should not go unnoticed, or unrewarded. Rad’s philosophy is to praise effort and performance in both the classroom as well as on the track. It looks like that is a winning combination. That philosophy is sure to benefit the kids and the team this weekend at EMU.

After the State Championships this weekend, most of the kids will return to their school teams. The majority of team member run for area schools. Much of the team is in high school and are big contributors to their high school track teams. These members include Carter Johnson (captain) and Drake Johnson at Pioneer High School, Austin Sanders, Andrew Hunt, Marc Miles, Brian Witherspoon, Terrance Moore and Margorie Bothwell at Ypsilanti High School, Kellie Littlejohn at Southfield HS, Omar Russell, Kabine Diane and Charles Boyd at Huron HS. There is no doubt that their participation and national experience and exposure gained from running with the Michigan All-Stars will certainly benefit them as they move into their high school outdoor season.

Good luck Michigan All-Stars at State Championships and in the MHSAA high school outdoor season. Keep up the good work.