Charles Cargo and Mercedes Porter have competed in the AAU National Junior Olympic Games before.
Now, the two juniors at Rantoul Township High School and members of the Rantoul Track Club will try to improve upon their showing from the 2011 event in New Orleans.
The duo will travel to Humble, Texas, a suburb of Houston, later this week for the chance to compete in the largest national track and field event held annually for youth between the ages of 5-22.
Both Cargo and Porter will compete in the intermediate age division, which features fellow competitors 15 and 16 years old. Cargo and Porter will both compete in the triple jump after qualifying for the event a month ago at a qualifying meet at Illinois State University.
Cargo will also compete in the decathlon, which features 10 different events: the 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,600-meter run.
“I am not looking forward to the weather, but I am excited to go,” Porter said with a laugh. “I don’t have any words how to describe how excited I am to be going.”
Porter placed 50th at last year’s event with a leap of 33 feet, 1 inch. She qualified for this year’s meet by jumping 32-11 at Illinois State.
She dealt with an ankle injury that limited her this past spring while competing for the Eagles, and a Class 1A state qualifier in the event in 2010 is hopeful the event in Texas will serve as a nice springboard into her junior year at RTHS.
“I feel like it does help keep me in shape, and I have more experience now on the team than some of the other girls do,” Porter said. “I feel like being here and doing this, it help gives me a better look of how things are really going to be. I get to compete with better girls, girls who are really good and from all around the country. In high school, it’s just in Illinois, so now it’s bigger and better.”
Cargo qualified for Texas in the triple jump after leaping 38-5. That’s not too bad for an athlete who has never fully devoted himself to the triple jump, like Cargo.
He said he tried the event in the track club’s first meet this summer, liked it and stuck with it.
Both Cargo and Porter are scheduled to compete in the triple jump next Tuesday, July 31, with the decathlon for Cargo on Saturday and Sunday.
Rantoul Track Club coach Harbert Jones is glad to see two of his pupils back on a similar stage to what they experienced last summer.
“First of all, it keeps their interest (in track and field),” Jones said. “The interest grows talking about next season already. They have both their sights set on going to college, so to me, that’s huge. I want to see them aspire to go to the next level. They’ll both be around for the next spring.”
Cargo said juggling the many events that come with the decathlon is a challenge. So is trying to leave with a better showing than last year’s event after he placed 22nd in the decathlon.
“It’s not as easy as I thought it would be,” Cargo said about the Games. “I know how it is now, and I just know what to do better.”
Jones said he’s impressed with Cargo’s willingness to try new events.
“He just likes the challenge in the events he’s not done before,” Jones said. “He was excited about trying the javelin. He threw the shot and discus early on when he was in junior high. In running, he’s worked at it. He doesn’t have a lot of work in the hurdles, and high jump and hurdles are two events he’s got to put some time in, but it’s been fun coaching him.”