Reaching the Olympics — whether on the national or world stage — is an extraordinary feat accomplished by a modicum of athletes from a much larger junior, high school, collegiate and professional faction.
Of the 24 athletes on the Midlothian-based Momentum Youth Track Club's roster, 16 reached the AAU Southwestern District 2 meet and seven reached the Region 12 level.
Four more, Amani Bradsheer, Jackson Davis, Evanna Jacobsen and Peter Mbuthia, will join more than 60,000 athletes throughout the United States during the July 29 Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
"These are all new athletes that have broken the barrier and made it," said Arlene Sutton, the club's head coach. "They come out having and idea of running, but then they actually learn to run and that there's a strategy and technique behind it. It takes a lot of hard wor but when they begin to see their times improve, that's where the real magic happens. Some of those thousands of athletes get to make it to the district, regional and national stages. If you make it to the Junior Olympics, you've officially arrived."
Generally speaking, about 20,000 children through the nation reach the regional competition in the 50 states.
Bradsheer earned a place as one of the best 8 through 18-year-old long jumpers in the nation after winning district, regional and Junior Olympic qualifier medals. The two of the team's long distance runners, Davis (1,500-meter, 3,000-meter) and Jacobsen (1,500-meter), and a sprinter, Mbuthia (100-meter, 200-meter), accomplished the same act.
Jacobsen is also the team's only Junior Olympic 80-meter hurdler.
Those four, though, only show a small part of the success the program has had this season. While athletes like Ainsley Ehrsam and Adrian Perez, Daylin Smith and Tahtiona Smith reached the district meet, others like Abby and Gracie Powers and Angela Tometi reached the regional platform.
Both Sutton and her assistants Vincent Alexander, Yazim Blakey and Chris Foster agreed that this year's team has been a boon to a program that started as a virtual unknown in the city at the turn of the decade.
"It began seven years ago with a dream to create a forward-thinking program," Blakey said. "To see where it's gone from then to now is truly amazing."
According to the information published in the club's charter information, the MYTC is a non-profit organization sanctioned by the AAU that is dedicated to training and developing boys and girls between the ages of 10 through 18 years old in 2010.
MYTC athletes compete in a myriad of track including the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, the 800-, 1500 and 3000-meter run, the 80-, 100-, 200- and 400-meter hurdles and the 4X400-meter relay. The also compete in shot put and discus field events.
Sutton said each coaches top priority and emphasis is to foster individual improvement in each athlete's individual events rather than their placements. She added the program's focus is to create goal-setters and play an active role in challenging and enhancing their performance.
"I can definitely say these kids have arrived in the world of track and field. Some of them were told they weren't good enough and some faced other obstacles, but none of them let it discourage them," Alexander said, shaking a parent's hand after a friendly embrace. "To come from the point they were at to where they are now; it shows they've progressed greatly and done more than they were asked and worked harder than they they thought they could. They've accomplished something that not a lot of kids get to or may or will never get to accomplish.
"It took taking courage, endurance and all the things it takes to make it through life and bringing it to the track. That took a lot on the part of the athletes and their mothers and fathers who allow us a chance to work with their children."
For some athletes, though, it was about fun and seeing if they were as fast as they thought they were.
"My dad came in [to our house] and asked me if I wanted to do track," said Erhsam, a first-year runner. "I thought it would be fun because I thought I was pretty fast. What I learned is that I wasn't as fast as I thought I was when I went to practice for the first time. There are some really fast people on this team. After a month, though, I started catching up to them."
For others, it was about pushing their limits and testing the edges of their ability.
"I've learned to keep my pace and learn with form but most of all, I've learned how good I can be," Jacobsen said.
"It's been hard work, but we love the track meets," 10-year-old Davis added, tinkering with the medals hanging from his neck. "I think we're all better than when we started and none of us thought we'd have a chance to make it to the Olympics. Now we're here and we have a chance to do something really cool."
For all, it was about bringing the sport of track and field to the city of Midlothian and building a bridge to the talent already existent at Frank Seale and Walnut Grove Middle Schools and Midlothian and Midlothian Heritage High Schools.
The road to those city institutions, however, may have golden paydays along the way. Summer track is still rolling and Michigan and the Junior Olympic Games are still calling.
Marcus S. Marion, @MarcusMarionWNI