Mitchell Harper is a San Antonio native but has moved to South Beloit and runs for the Illinois Jets AAU track team. Harper will compete in the AAU Junior Nationals Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa, from July 28 through Aug. 2.
South Beloit’s Mitchell Harper is getting his first taste of national success in AAU track with the Illinois Jets.
The 14-year-old, who was born in San Antonio, qualified for the AAU Junior Olympic Nationals two weeks ago.
“Illinois is great and I really like the people out here and it’s nice here,” Harper said. “The Jets have helped me a lot. It’s just like a big ol’ family.
“This is my first year doing club track at this level and it’s pretty cool to make it to junior nationals in the first year to see what it’s like.”
Harper is one of 10 Illinois Jets who made it to junior nationals after qualifying in the regional at Northern Illinois University.
“Mitchell Harper is a very impressive young man and made it his first year in three events and that’s very rare,” Jets vice president and team manager Monique Jones said.
Harper ran a 12.2 seconds in the 100 and also qualified in the long jump and 200.
The Jets are coached by DuWayne Jones, who is also the president of the team and Monique Jones’ husband. Their daughter, Patrice, is one of the top four qualifiers in the long jump, and also qualified in the 200 and 400 dashes. Their son, DuWayne Patriq Jones, is in the top 20 in the 400.
Breanna Pierson and Isabella Warneke of South Beloit, Jalen Anderson and Phairra Jones of Roscoe, Jayvious Johnson of Machesney Park, Anthony and Christopher Charleston of Rockford also qualified for nationals.
The Jets program began in 2009.
“We were the coaches of the Rockford Fire and my husband really wanted to take the program to a little bit more of an aggressive level of traveling,” Monique Jones said. “With the support of the Park District they’re kind of our umbrella for our not-for-profit status.
“We have support from local coaches that volunteer to help us, so we can’t take all the credit for how well the kids are doing.”
The AAU Junior Olympic Nationals will be in Des Moines, Iowa, from July 28 through Aug. 2.
Pierson is in her second year with the program and looks to improve on her first national appearance from last summer.
“I was pretty excited about my time this year in the 400 hurdles,” she said. “But I want it to go down once I get to Iowa and get a PR.”
Joey Baskerville: 815-987-1353; firstname.lastname@example.org; @Baskerville_JS