Dalton Rowan, recent Oak Ridge High School graduate, poses in the discus cage at the high school Friday. Rowan is competing at the USATF Junior Olympic Championships this week and is attending Texas A&M University in the fall.
The Northwest Flyers Track Club is enjoying a record year with 57 athletes competing in 81 events during this week’s USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Championships at Wichita State University in Kansas, including two local athletes.
Abby Feeney, who just completed her sophomore year at The Woodlands High School, will compete in the heptathlon, a competition composed of seven events, and the 100-meter hurdles. Feeney placed second in both events at the Texas state regional event at the University of Texas at Arlington in June.
“This is where a lot of colleges take a look at you,” Feeney said of the Junior Olympics.
Coach Pal Roach said the club has been around for 24 years, serving athletes around northwest Houston, including Cy Fair, Spring, Klein, The Woodlands, Tomball and Magnolia. Roach said there are 276 athletes on the roster, ages 6-18, and the club has grown since he took over the program 10 years ago with 35 athletes.
The 57 athletes competing at the Junior Olympics eclipsed the previous record of 36, Roach said.
Every year, the team has about 10-12 athletes go on to compete at the college level, including his own daughters, Lindsay, who went to Duke University, and Kelley, who just completed her freshman year at Cornell University. A Cornell graduate and track athlete himself, Roach said the Northwest Flyers have earned a reputation for their coaching staff, which consists of several former Division I athletes.
“The club has a very high reputation for quality coaches and development,” Roach said.
Although undecided about where she wants to go to college, Feeney said competing in summer leagues increases her chances of competing in college. She qualified for the Junior Olympics in seventh and eighth grade with two other area summer track teams before suffering a stress fracture in her shin as a freshman last year.
Although there are not many athletes from The Woodlands on the Flyers, Feeney said she has made “a lot of friends” through summer clubs. However, Feeney said she practices as much as two to four hours a day and up to 25 hours a week.
“It’s definitely tough, but I want a scholarship so bad that I keep working hard,” Feeney said.
One athlete already a lock for college is Dalton Rowan, a recent Oak Ridge High School graduate. Rowan will be competing in the discus this week, which he placed in the top five in last year. It is Rowan’s first year participating with the Flyers and his second time on a summer team.
Rowan said he joined the Flyers this year because some of his future Texas A&M University teammates are part of the team and he believes the summer competition will be a good preparation for college.
“I’m looking forward to the competition and I need to challenge myself like I will this year (in college),” Rowan said.
Undefeated in more than half a dozen meets in high school last year, Rowan said he excelled as a senior but did not always face stiff competition. He expects to see at least two or three legitimate competitors at the Junior Olympics.
“Absolutely, this will be a good challenge,” he said. “Competition-wise, I’m going to have to realize that at the college level, everyone was all-state in high school.”
For more information about the track club, go to www.northwestflyers.org.