Courtesy photo
12-year-old Yohane Griffin will be running the 200 meters at the 2012 Hershey’s Track and Field National Championships this weekend in Pennsylvania.

Yohane Griffin’s long journey to Federal Way will take a little detour to Hershey, Penn. this weekend.

The 12-year-old Lakota Middle School student earned the all-expense paid trip to the 2012 Hershey’s Track and Field National Championships earlier this summer after claiming Washington state championships. The North American Final Meet will take place Aug. 4.

Griffin, who will be a seventh-grader at Lakota in the fall, will be competing in the 200-meter dash in the 11- and 12-year-old division at the national meet.

In total, seven kids from Washington will be attending the national meet in Hershey. The 9 to 14 year olds qualified with performances at the Hershey State Track Meet, which was held at Mount Tahoma Stadium in Tacoma on June 30.

To qualify for the national meet, Washington athletes had to have the top time or distance in the entire region, not just the state. Washington’s region also includes Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta.

“I came back from track practice and my mom told me,” Griffin said. “I was excited. I’m going to try my best. That’s all.”

Griffin was dominant at the state meet in Tacoma. Along with the title in the 200 in a time of 26.89, he also won the 12-under championship in the 100-meter dash (13.18).

Griffin will have a big-time rooting section when he takes to the track at the national meet. His mother, Paula, and his three brothers, Yona (19), Moses (17) and Joseph (14) are making the trek to Hershey, along with 18 other family members from the East Coast.

“We are excited,” Paula Griffin said. “Like it’s the Olympics.”

“It’s going to be exciting,” Griffin said. “They are going to have a good time there.”

Griffin and his three brothers came to America from the small African country of Malawi. The landlocked country in the southeast Africa and is among the world’s least-developed in the world.

“It’s very different from here,” Griffin said. “It’s hard to explain.”

Griffin will will be treated to several amenities while in Hershey, including a tour of the chocolate factory, sleeping in college dormitory rooms and other games and activities during their four-day trip.

But Griffin is most excited for the planned excursion to HersheyPark. The theme park features 12 roller coasters and over 65 other rides, including a water park.

“That’s what I’m looking forward to, going to the theme park,” Griffin said. “I like that.”

Griffin is a lot more than just a fast runner. The Lakota student is also a member of the Junior National Honor Society and won scholastic awards in math and a Presidential Gold Academic Award. Griffin also won the Presidential Fitness Award and plays on the Federal Way Football Club’s U-13 select soccer team.

Now entering its 34th year, Hershey’s Track & Field Games is the largest youth sports program of its kind in North America. It is designed to encourage physical fitness and sportsmanship for youth of all skill levels. More than 10 million youth athletes have participated in the Hershey’s Track & Field Games over the program’s previous 33 years – all at no cost of entry.

“The Hershey Company is more committed than ever to promoting physical activity and sportsmanship among young people,” said Jim George, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, The Hershey Company, and Hershey’s Track & Field Games Chairman of the Board. “Working with Nike’s innovative Reuse-A-Shoe program, which helps kids get more involved in environmental stewardship, is a wonderful new component that will help us on our mission to create fun fitness opportunities for kids throughout North America.”

Contact Federal Way Mirror Sports editor Casey Olson at or  (253) 925-5565  ext. 5056.