Photo from Emmanuel Freeland
Members of the FASST Track Club in Largo have enjoyed success at various levels of competition this summer. Largo High School Daryl Hamilton and Frederick Douglass coach Malcolm Drewery founded the program in 2010.

In 2010, Darryl Hamilton and Malcolm Drewery wanted to find a different type of track club.

Hamilton, the track and field coach at Largo High School, and Drewery, the coach at Frederick Douglass, wanted a place where young athletes could focus on training and understanding the sport before they reached the high school level. They wanted a place where the environment felt like a family. A smaller club that diverged from the larger organizations popping up throughout the area.

So they founded FASST, which stands for the Future of Agility, Speed, & Strength Training. At FASST, Hamilton, Drewery and a talented team of coaches work with kids ages 8-14. Hamilton said the club, which trains at the newly-renovated track at Largo High School, has roughly 30 girls and 40-50 boys.

“We focus on the people and kids we know,” Hamilton said. “I've been coaching since I was 21-years-old, over 30 years, and I focus on my relatives and people I used to coach, their kids, and kids in the community, the Largo area. We don't go out and promote. If I see somebody I know, I ask them if their kid wants to run.”

Hamilton and Drewery's mentality is paying dividends as the club recently enjoyed success at the 2013 USATF Junior Olympics National Championships at North Carolina A&T University and the Amateur Athletic Union championships in Detroit, Mich.

“We wanted to focus on making sure the kids get everything they need out of track, the fundamentals and discipline,” Hamilton said. “You want to get that close-knit atmosphere. In those big clubs, there's a lot going on. We wanted to make sure when kids left our track club, they know how to run certain races, know all the events and are well-prepared for whatever high school they might attend.”

Some of the club's standout athletes have been Kendal Drewery (11-12 girls, pentathlon, hurdles, long jump), Nicolas Wilson (11-12 boys 200 meters, 400), Aa'Nya Freeland (8-and-Under girls 100, 200), Alyssa Harrod (8-U 100, 200) and Aalayah Harrod (9-10 girls 400, 800). At the Junior Olympics, Drewery was spectacular as she won the 11-12-year-old pentathlon national championship with an overall points total of 3,118. She also won the 80 hurdles with a time of 12.67 seconds and placed second in the long jump (4.95 meters). Wilson won the 400 dash with a time of 55.05.

Emmanuel Freeland, whose daughter Aa'Nya competes at the 8-U level, is in his first year coaching girls' track at FASST and has noticed how strong the club is becoming.

“Coming from an athlete, I'm now transferring over to coaching. I'm used to being the one being yelled and now that I'm yelling at them it's kind of funny,” said Freeland, who graduated from Central High School and holds school records in the 100 and 200. “Track has always been my passion. It's in my blood. It's like a family thing. If you don't run track, nobody messes with you in the family.”

Freeland attended Temple University, where he also holds records, and said he's been invigorated by the process of learning and teaching with some of the better coaches in the county.

“It's been a great experience,” he said. “In my first year coaching, we've had instant success. The girls that I've been coaching, they immediately caught on. They love to grind, hate to lose.

We push them so hard they'll be crying. They'll be crying because it hurts so much and they just want to keep going. That's how intense our practices will be.”

Hamilton said the club will take a bit of a break until the indoor season begins, but - contrary to the trend in many sports nowadays - he encourages his athletes to try other sports instead of sticking with the same thing year-round.

“We're happy with what we're doing because in three years we became a very good program,” Hamilton said. “We want to continue to keep doing well and get better, keep teaching the kids so that when they get to the high school level, hopefully they'll understand the sport of track and field.”