Over the last 10 years, Chris Jelks has formed one of the best summer track teams in the state.
Starting today at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, 24 athletes from his Kentucky Elite team will compete in an AAU Area 9 National Qualifier.
The team features 17 athletes from Hardin County: Celeste Carver, Cherice Cobb, Harley Domschke, Tyler Ford, Regene Gill, Raisa Graves, Raven Graves, Gregory Hall, Janaiqua Horne, Tamera Jenkins, Andrew Morgan, Terrence Mills, Brittany Pettell, P.J. Randles, Lashana Reed, Dakota Wadsworth and Brianna Woodson. The team also has athletes from Mercer County, Nelson County and Bowling Green.
The top five individual finishers in each event and top four relays from each national qualifier advance to the AAU Junior Olympic Games, which begin July 30 in New Orleans.
“We’ve got a few kids that definitely have a chance to win the whole thing,” said Jelks, who’s assisted by John Hardin High School girls’ coach Leland Warsaw.
One of those athletes is Gill, who’s an incoming freshman at Fort Knox. After placing 17th in the 100-meter hurdles in the Class 1-A state meet, she’ll competes in the 400 hurdles this weekend.
“I think Regene will surprise a lot of people in the 400 hurdles,” Jelks said. “We don’t do that during the high school track season, so anybody doing that has to step their game up. It’s different than doing the 300 hurdles.
“Warsaw has been working with her in that, and she’s been doing well.”
Jelks, a former coach at Christian Academy of Louisville, recruits athletes from across the state every year. Nine of them are from North Hardin this season.
Jelks said he attributes that to his friendships with North Hardin coaches James Webb and John Russell.
“You have a lot of people that run out here during high school that don’t take it as serious,” Jelks said. “If you come out in the summer, you’re going to have to take it serious. When you go against teams from outside of the state, you’re going to find where you stand.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or at firstname.lastname@example.org