A chance to compete in the Junior Olympics has been a goal of the Southwest Mississippi Roadrunners AAU track team since it started practice earlier this year.
Head coach Vic Montgomery is very happy to have six of his 18 athletes on the team qualify for the event, which will take place July 22-28 in Sacramento, Calif.
“Out of the six, at least five are going to compete in multiple events,” he said. “There are some big expectations. We have a couple of kids ranked in the top 30 out of 60 and it is going to be pretty interesting to see how they are going to do once we get there. Over 7,000 athletes are going to compete. “
One of those kids is Stephanciauna Osbey who qualified in three different distance running events in the 13-14 year-old division — the 3000-meter, 1500-meter and 800-meter.
“She is going to be one of the premiere distance runners,” Montgomery said. “She’s going to be a freshman at McComb High School. We are expecting some big things from her. She is going to be one of the top distance runners in the state. It is going to be interesting to see how she is going to do. This is going to be one of the biggest stages she has ever competed on.”
Another member who qualified in multiple events is Asia Jefferson, who will compete in the 1500m and 800m races in the 11-12 year-old female division. At the regional meet last weekend in Meridian, she set a new personal best in the 1500m race with a time of 6:40.11.
“With Asia, she will be going in the seventh grade at Amite County High School,” Montgomery said. “This is Asia’s second year of running with us. Last year, we kind of dabbled with the sprints with her since it was her first year. But we figured out that distance is going to be her thing, so we moved her over to distance. It was tough for her in the beginning of the season, but it worked out for her.”
Kendrick Matthews Jr. is the oldest qualifier on the team competing in the 15-16 year-old group. He qualified to compete in the 3000m run following a first place finish at regionals, and in the 1500m race after finishing fourth. But Montgomery said that he also did well in a third race.
“He was going to compete in three events but we chose to pull him out of the 800m a week ago. We are just going to focus on the 3000 and the 1500. This is his second time going to nationals. He went two years ago in Kansas as an eighth-grader.”
Two Roadrunners have also qualified to compete in field events in Sacramento. Joerdynn Taylor earned spots in the discus and shot put competitions in the 11-12 year-old group.
“Actually, Joerdynn should have been a three-time qualifier, but what happened was they moved one of the events early during the day and did not notify us,” Montgomery said. “ She has been (setting) personal records every week in the javelin, discus and shot put.”
The lone competitor to compete in a jumping field event is Kristian Robinson, who will be in the long jump event. “So Kristian will be competing in the 8-and-under division,” Montgomery said. “Kristian will be seven this year so he’s still six. That is a major accomplishment for Kristian. He actually jumped his best jump this week at 9-foot-8; it is a personal record for him. We have big expectations for Kristian. Sometimes we have to think that he is six-years-old, but sometimes we treat him like he is eight.”
Another 8-and-under competitor is Jordyn Shaffer — the lone sprinter of the qualifiers —who qualified in the 400m dash with a time of 1:20.10. “This is Jordyn’s first year of competing with us,” Montgomery said. “He is from Tylertown, and next year he will be moving up. At district, he ran in three events. We look for Jordyn to (set a personal record. His best time this year is 1:16. We look for him to run around a 1:14.”
Despite the event beginning Monday, Montgomery admits that his team is not practicing hard this week. But he said that his kids are ready to compete.
“We changed the strategy this week,” Montgomery said. “We are doing a lot of recovery days, letting kids heal. We are doing treatments with ice baths. We are letting them rest this week. We are doing a little jogging.”
Some of the kids will have a tougher road to make it to the finals of their respective events, as they will have to pass a qualifying round. “For some of those kids like Kendrick, Stephanciauna and Joerdynn, they have to qualify to make it to the finals,” Montgomery said. “With Asia, Kristian and Jordyn, it is all going to be finals. We are just telling them to go in there and give it their best.”
Overall, Montgomery is very confident in his team as a whole. “We are going to go out there and compete and put a good show on and represent the state of Mississippi with the Southwest Mississippi Roadrunners.”