Columbus High's Samuel will compete in Texas
Columbus High School rising freshman Sky Samuel finished third and fourth in the 100 and 200 meters last weekend at the Amateur Athletic Union National Area 10 Qualifier in New Orleans. Samuels’ performances helped her advance to the AAU Junior Olympics on July 27-Aug. 3 in Humble, Texas. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff
Sky Samuel didn't know what to expect, but she knew the experience at the Amateur Athletic Union National Qualifier Area 10 wasn't going to be anything like a high school meet.
Not only was the Columbus High School rising freshman competing against some of the best athletes in the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, but Sunday she and her competitors also had to run in the rain.
Samuel didn't let the level of competition or the elements slow her down, finishing third in the 100 meters with a time of 12.48 seconds and fourth in the 200 (25.2) to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympics on July 27-Aug. 3 in Humble, Texas.
"I went into the first day knowing I was going to win," Samuel said. "If I was going in there knowing I was not going to win, I was not going to win."
On Friday, Samuel won her preliminary heat in the 100. On Saturday, she recorded a time of 25.8 in the 200 after she slowed down because she said someone entered into her lane. The weather played a part in Sunday's competition, which was Samuel's first AAU meet after a successful eighth-grade season with the Columbus High girls track and field team. Samuel took fourth in the 200 (24.93) and sixth in the 100 (12.23) at the Class 6A State meet last month. Columbus High coach Yvonne Hairston said Samuel's latest efforts are the first steps in her development into an elite sprinter.
"Sky did well," Hairston said. "It just opens up a broader range of competition for her. At AAU meets, she competes against people her age from all over the country, so she has an opportunity to see who is out there and how fast she is against other people her age. It's a good thing for her to do."
Hairston said Vicksburg High rising freshman Keiyana Gaskin figures to be one of Samuel's top competitors in high school. She said more chances to train with the East Mississippi Elite, a track club out of Starkville, and to compete at AAU events could help Samuel realize a goal to earn a track and field scholarship.
Jarwarski Beckum, the sprints coach at Starkville High, has been working with Samuel for the past three to four weeks. He said it is easy to tell Samuel has a lot of potential as a sprinter. In fact, he said she could develop into one of the state's top runners by the end of her high school career, but he said it will be a process. The next step in that journey will come in Texas.
"With her being young, she will have to grow into it," Beckum said. "Track is one of those sports that takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I have seen major changes with her attitude. She is now learning the sport of track and understands she can't half train and show up and run."
Samuel admits her mental approach is a work in progress. She said her ability to stop complaining will be a key to her continued improvement. She said Hairston and Jarwarski have commented about her complaints, but Jarwarski has tried to turn her mind-set into a positive. She said he is working with her on her self-confidence and bringing a "I can" mentality into meets.
"If I don't come out here and complain like I always do and run and do what I am supposed to do, (I will be able to get to her goals of 11.9 in the 100 and 24.0 in the 200)," Samuel said. "I am used to complaining a lot because it is hot out here and I am not a heat person."
Beckum said Samuel's attitude will continue to mature as she competes in more meets and appreciates the amount of time she will need to spend to compete with the best in the United States. He said Samuel is learning to work hard and that he expects her to do plenty of it in the next month to help prepare her for the Junior Olympics.
"I think (the National Qualifier) is going to make her work harder because she knows now it is a great experience," Beckum said. "It was frustrating (for her to finish where she did). Now she has to go home and go to work if she wants to be the best and not to have the same feeling at the end of July. I think it is going to make her grow into the sprinter she can become."
The East Mississippi Elite is a club track and field team that has 20 members ages 7-18 from Columbus, Starkville, Noxubee County, and Clinton high schools and other schools. For more information, call Beckum at 574-1037, or go to the club's Facebook page.