Northeast Louisiana will be well-represented with 69 track and field athletes competing at the Junior Olympics regional meet, which starts Thursday and ends Sunday at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Twenty-seven of those runners are from the Massey Miracle Run Foundation led by coaches DeeDee Massey and Charles Smith.
Massey said all of the regional participants qualified in a Natchez, Miss., event, and she is proud of the number of Louisiana runners making the trip to Tennessee.
All of the runners hope to advance to the national Junior Olympics meet July 21 in Baltimore, Md., a place where seven Massey runners have been before.
Those members include Cherish Gray, Jabaria Johnson, Joshua Newton, Elizabeth Davis, Victoria Brown, Nicolyia Hogg and Joshua Hopkins.
Smith, also the Wossman High track coach, said he's encouraged by the number of kids participating in track and field.
"The Junior Olympics is a great experience because they treat the kids just like they are in the Olympics," Smith said. "Size doesn't matter in track and field.
"If you can throw, run or jump, you can participate. It also can translate into a college education if you work hard enough."
Other Massey girls competing in Tennessee include Trinity Bailey, Chasity Brown, Brailyn Carter, Ty'Teynnai Carter, Brianna Harris, Dametria Hogg, Kayla Hopkins, Dnadia Meredith, Aleeyah Perkins, Khrystyan Reddic and Myesha Williams.
Other Massey boys include Jimmon Carter Felton, Kendrick Carter, Brandon Hollins, Justin Lawrence, Stephan Maxwell, Ja'Terrius Smith, Montre' Smith, Tyler Taylor and Cedric Woods.
DeeDee Massey said the runners are ages 6-18 and are mostly from Monroe, West Monroe, Bastrop and Winnsboro, but encompass other areas of northeast Louisiana.
Massey started the foundation after her daughter, K'Deidra Massey, overcame a muscular problem at birth to earn a track scholarship to Jackson State.
"To see the look in these kids' eyes ... it's been an inspiration to be involved like this," DeeDee Massey said. "We're trying to give the kids something to do so they will stay out of trouble."
The Massey Miracle Run Foundation is a non-profit organization, and Massey said Chase banks collect donations for the group. The organization and participants fund all trips.
Peak Performance Track Club, another area track and field organization, is sending 42 runners to the regional meet.
Donations for that group can be made at 354 Danna Road in West Monroe.