Members of the Millville Track Club work out in preparation for the AAU Junior Olympics meet, which begins this weekend in New Orleans. Nineteen athletes from the club will be making the trip south, competing in numerous running and throwing events. / Staff photo/Craig Matthews
MILLVILLE -- For most athletes, the track and field season ended in June.
But for the Millville Track Club, the season culminates on July 30 with a trip to New Orleans.
The club, which is made up of members of the Millville High School boys' and girls' teams as well as many younger Millville residents, is heading to the AAU Junior Olympics for 11 days.
I haven't stopped track since March, rising senior Alexis Kennedy said with a laugh.
In all, 20 boys and girls from the Millville Track Club qualified for the Jr. Olympics and 19 athletes along with three coaches -- lead by the club's head coach Raffael Craig -- will be making the trip.
It's exciting, and it's definitely an experience, Kennedy said. Especially for colleges, people are going to look at how you do there.
The club, which costs $40 per athlete to join, has plenty of benefits including the opportunity to compete at the Jr. Olympics, according to Craig.
For a (high school) junior, it's giving them an opportunity to improve on their spring season, to try to get better marks and to get recruited, Craig said. The reality is, the ones that want to go to college for this are here.
The girls' team at Millville is the four-time defending Cumberland County and Cape-Atlantic League American Conference champions and many of the spring athletes have been part of the Millville Track Club, which works out four days a week in the summer.
It's a trend that's likely to continue. The club hit 80 members this summer with athletes as young as five years old.
The team is taking athletes as young as 10 years old to New Orleans. Many of the high school athletes are branching out from the events in which they participate at the high school level.
Sprinter and rising senior Janeese Barber is running as part of the 4x800 relay.
The 800 is only going to make my 400 stronger, Barber said. The spring season is for the 100, 200 and 400.
The meet also gives some athletes the chance to compete in the heptathlon or decathlon, two events which aren't options during the high school season.
Traveling also is part of the club's attraction. Many of the athletes competed in New York earlier this summer. The members of the team say it helps build a family mentality that carries over to the spring.
This is the one team I have the most bond with, said Kennedy, who qualified for the Meet of Champions in the shot put last spring and is competing in New Orleans in the shot put and the discus.
The team will take 10-passenger busses to the Jr. Olympics. The cost of the trip -- including entry fees that were raised to $45 per event this season -- is covered by the athletes and fundraisers. Craig said the Thunderbolt Club has been instrumental in helping raise enough money to be able to send so many athletes to the competition.
With athletes from across the entire country though, competition is stiff and the focus is just on improving. Of course, any improvement now is meant to carry over to the spring season.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Millville Track Club or contributing to the club can visit their website, www.millvilletrackclub.org.
Millville Track Club going to New Orleans
Ashli Weems -- Shot put, discus
Alexis Kennedy -- Shot put, discus
Brianna Green -- 3,000 meters, 1,500 meters, Young Women 4x800, javelin
Brianna Springsteadah -- 2,000-meter steeplechase, 800, YM 4x800
Janeese Barber -- YM 4x800
My'Angel Davis -- 400-meter hurdles
Taijonah Wiggins -- YM 4x800
Teana Rumph - Heptathlon
Victoria Thaler -- 400-meter hurdles and Intermediate Girls 4x800
Valerie Thaler -- IG 4x800
Elizabeth Sooy -- IG 4x800
Kaitlyn Dermen -- IG 4x800
Josh Cassady -- Decathlon, long jump
Shaquille Battle -- Decathlon
Rashon Sorrell -- Decathlon
William Poley -- Decathlon
Imani Gaines -- Heptathlon (13 years old)
Najeaha Singleston -- Shot put, discus (11 years old)
Raelynne Miller -- 400, 800, 1,500 (10 years old)
- Meagan Thornton qualified, but won't be making the trip.