UNION - Eight athletes have traveled to represent Northern Kentucky in the 2016 AAU Junior Olympics Regional Qualifier, which began in Knoxville June 30.

They represent the BCK Track Club, formed this summer to help athletes from Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties (BCK) compete at the national stage in track and field.

“Our goal is to build the program and give something kids something to do outside of the season,” said Ryle track coach Russell Harden. “There were no AAU opportunities before and the other opportunities weren’t advertised as well. The difference with AAU is they make sure the athletes are insured, which is a big part of it.”

On July 1, the quartet of Jordan Fong, Skylar Dill, Avery Goff, and Alexa Echeverria qualified for nationals in their age group in the 4x400, finishing third in the event.

Harden started the program with fellow Ryle coach Edmund Echeverria and Shawn Proffitt, who coached Donald Scott in Florida, where he won the AAU National Championship in triple jump. Scott is ranked eighth in the world and hopes to join Team USA in Rio this summer.

The program started with 12 athletes and Harden, who will move to Campbell County High School next school year, hopes to grow interest in the future.

“We want student-athletes from all over Northern Kentucky,” he said. “Maybe they’re playing baseball in the spring, they’re thinking maybe I want to try high jump and with AAU they get the chance to try that.”

The club practices twice a week and encourages personal growth and skill development. BCK might be new to the AAU organization but the coaches bring decades of coaching experience, including many years as competitors.

“We’re here for every kid from the area, regardless of school or economics,” said Echeverria.

The competitors in Knoxville are hoping to qualify for the national meet in Houston the first week of August.

“It’s broken down by age group,” Harden said. “Instead of qualifying per school, you qualify as a 14 year old. As a 14 year old, he will compete in the regionals against other 14 year olds.”

The club will continue to practice in July as much as possible with some of the members moving on to their fall sports. Harden hopes to get at least 30 in the program next year.

“If more parents were aware of the opportunity with the low price and only practicing twice a week, they would jump on it,” he said.

The club is open to athletes ages 8-18 and practices in Boone County. Interested athletes and parents can contact Harden at bcktrackclub@gmail.com

Follow James Weber on Twitter @JWeberSports