Seventeen southern Oklahoma athletes will represent Southern Oklahoma Track Club at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Humble, Texas, this week.
SOTC will arrive on Friday, but the entire competition is from Wednesday-Aug. 4.
“We have quite a few (with experience),” said coach Chris Pelton, who will be attending his 17th national competition. “On our midget girls relay, three of those have national experience; they all ran last year at nationals. Amaya Gordon ... she ran every year for the last four years at nationals. She’s finally on top of her age group, she’s got a really good chance."
Gordon, 10, has qualified in three events - the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes.
“On the girls’ side we have a lot of returning athletes,” Pelton said. “but on the boys most are all new. None of those have national experience.”
What the boys don’t have in national experience, they possess in versatile athletes. Rising eighth graders Marshall Zabonik has qualified in three field events - the javelin, discus and shot put.
“He’s got a really good chance,” Pelton said of Zabonik. “He’s ranked in the top eight right now going in. He has a chance of medaling in the discus, javelin and shot put. Then we have Quintrail (Armstrong), one of the Bantam boys; he’s ranked up there pretty high.
“On the throws, we’re really, really competitive. We have some returning throwers - Josh (Davis), a couple others - but all the runners on the boys’ side are all new.”
Coach Harold Brown, who specializes in throws, thinks the personal bests from regional competition will give the team confidence headed into competition this week.
"I definitely think there will be room for personal bests at the national meet,” Brown said. “I think some of our runners will have the chance to be competitive, especially our (bantam girls) 4x400.
“I hope that all the practice that we’ve put in since then, with the extra practice days, will pay off.”
Brown added that some of the individual performances from the Lawton meet would have been enough to get even more athletes qualified for nationals. To him, it’s just an indication that there’s still even more left in his athletes.
Both coaches hope that little extra comes out this week.
“They’re really good and really competitive,” Pelton said. “Nationals will be a good experience for all of them.”
Erik K. Horne
Southern Oklahoma Track Club
Junior Olympic Games Qualifiers
Eric Agers, Quintaija Armstrong, Quintrail Armstrong, Tieronay Banks, Wesley Benson Amari Booker, Crislyn Booker, Derek Carathers, Jalen Carter, Joshua Davis, Ryan Dennis, Jonathan Escobedo, Amaya Gordon, Sierra Gordon, Alesia Horner, David Horner, Adrianna John, Nakeia Maytubby, D’Erika Peters, Iyona Sims, Trace Stewart, JaMar Stubblefield, MarRyah Stubblefield and Marshall Zabonik