Sisters Imani Barnett, 9, left, and Abby Barnett, 14, share a light moment during practice. Both qualified to participate in the AAU Junior Olympics in Humble on Aug. 1. Imani, making her junior olympic debut, will compete in the high jump, and Abby, a six-time junior olympic qualifier, will compete in the high jump and the 400-meter dash.
Abby and Imani Barnett take a deep breath with their eyes focused on clearing the high jump bar.
They lift their feet twice then start to run.
When they take flight then hit the mat, their father and coach, Abbie Barnett, is right there by their side.
"I tell them what they did right, wrong, and how they can improve for the next jump," Abbie said. "We come out to practice to get better, so when the competition comes, they will just think it another practice."
Practice, determination and hard work have paid off for Abby and Imani.
Abby and Imani will be heading to the AAU Junior Olympics in Humble on Aug. 1, after qualifying at the AAU Track and Field National Qualifier in San Antonio on June 30 through July 2.
Abby, 14, an incoming freshman at Victoria East, finished in first place with a jump of 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump and placed sixth in the 400-meter run with a time of 1:01, at the national qualifier in San Antonio.
This will be Abby's sixth time competing at the AAU Junior Olympics, where she has medaled all six years, including two gold place finishes in the high jump.
"This year, I set a goal to jump 5-6 and to win the high jump," Abby said. "I always told myself before I entered high school that I wanted to jump 5-6. I have confidence since I have competed there before, and now we just have to go and compete. This will be my first time in the 400 meters and I'm excited to get out there and run."
Imani, 9, a third grader at DeLeon Elementary, placed second in the high jump with a jump of 3-6 at the national qualifier.
"I'm excited for my first time," Imani said. "I want to finish in the top three. I'm ready to compete."
Faye Barnett, mother of Abby and Imani, has seen her daughter's develop in track and field.
"They both work really hard and push themselves every time we come out and practice," Faye said. "There will be a lot of competition at the Junior Olympics and they'll be ready."
Track and Field is a Barnett family tradition.
Abbie, Bloomington Middle School principal, played football and ran track at Cuero in the mid '80s. He ran at the state track meet for three years for the Gobblers and went on to play football and run track at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.
Both Abby and Imani know that their father having so much experience has helped them so much.
"He has taught me everything about track and field," Abby said. "He pushes us and wants us to get better. You have to be mentally tough when you're competing, and I know I'm tough because of my father."
"My dad always pushes us because he wants us to do good," Imani said. "He does a great job coaching us."
But track and field is more than running and jumping.
"Track and field is a great sport for kids to participate in because it can teach them about life lessons," Abbie said. "In track, you're all by yourself, if you lose a event it all falls on you, and that goes for the decisions that you make in life as well. You have to come back better next time so you can see yourself on the podium. I try to teach my girls that you can always get better with the right mindset and attitude."
Abby and Imani share the same passion for track and field.
"I love doing track and field," Abby said. "I'm good at it, and it's something my family has always done."
"I like to practice because I get better," Imani said. "I love track and field, and it makes me happy."
As Imani looks up to Abby, the elder Barnett gazes ahead to their future.
"I want to jump just like her," Imani said. "She does a good job and it makes me want to get better."
"It's good to see her compete," Abby said. "I know that she is only going to get better when she is older and I will show her everything I know."