Naaji Gadsden, a member of the Sho Up 'N Sho Out track team, runs drills with his team during practice at Victoria East High School on Tuesday. Gadsden and other members of the team were selected for the AAU Junior Olympics this year, which will be in Des Moines, Iowa, in late July.

Hurdler Carrie Lacy remembers her first day on the Sho Up 'N Sho Out track team clearly.

"The first day, I threw up," Lacy, a Patti Welder Junior High School student, remembers. "At that point, I wanted to quit, but my mom told me no."

Lacy, one of 17 on the Victoria track team to qualify for the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games for track and field, is glad she didn't quit after that first day.

"I'm glad she told me no because I really like it," the 13-year-old said. "I wouldn't have gotten this far if I had quit."

The AAU Junior Olympics will be July 22 through Aug. 2 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Sho Up 'N Sho Out's coach Robert Gadsden broke hurdling records at Victoria High when he was a student in the 1980s.

Gadsden charges no fee to train local kids.

"Nowadays, football costs $300 to join, soccer costs so much, and baseball costs so much, and you got a lot of kids with a lot of talent who don't have the money to do anything," Gadsden said. "I tell the parents that my fee is just respect for what I'm doing, and I'll coach my kids up to the best of my ability."

The 17 kids Gadsden will bring to the Junior Olympics are ranked between No. 3 and No. 40 in the country in their divisions, he said.

The team starts training after the holidays in January, and then it participates in meets starting after spring break in March.

The athletes learn everything from the proper way to run to what to eat three days before a meet, Gadsden said.

"My goal is by the time they get to the Junior Olympics, they're peaking," he said.

Two months ago, MacKenzie Barefield had made a 29-foot triple jump.

"From the time I got her from school to now, she's at 33 feet," Gadsden said. "She's peaking right now."

Naaji Gadsden, the coach's son, has been to the Junior Olympics twice before.

Naaji Gadsden, 12, will compete in the 80-meter hurdles, 400-meter dash and long jump.

"It's just like the Olympics on TV - it's very fun and exciting," the Howell Middle School student said. "It's exciting for my dad because more people (qualified this year). Now, 17 are going... (I'm) proud."

Two years after starting the team, Gadsden brought five kids to the Junior Olympics last summer.

Flash forward to the start of the season this year, and 25 kids came out to run and jump for the former Victoria track star. There are kids from Victoria, Goliad and Refugio on the team.

Gadsden has to watch each child run and jump before he can tell what they will excel in, he said.

"I tell the parents, 'Don't tell me what you want them to run; I have to see them first and go from there," he said.

C'Niaha Randle, 8, is a another first-year team member.

"I wanted to see how running was like," Randle said. "I play baseball, soccer, basketball. I'm thinking basketball (is my favorite)."

A student at Dudley Elementary, Randle said she can't wait to go to Des Moines.

"I feel like I'm a champion," Randle said about winning track medals.

Though the training is free, parents are still responsible for transportation and registration to meets.

Rather than spend nearly $12,000 on a chartered bus, Gadsden said that all the families will caravan to Iowa for the competition.

"We're doing a lot of stuff to get all the kids there; we want everyone who made it - we want them to go," said Pam Williams, Naaji Gadsden's mother. "We don't want to leave anyone behind that has worked so hard to get there."

The team will host one more fundraiser before the competition at Williams' beauty parlor, Styles by Pam, at 4504 Lilac Lane, Suite 3, on July 23.