At the end of July, five of those eight athletes will travel to Texas for the national competition from July 27 to Aug. 4 at Humble High School in Houston.
Team founder and head coach Debonaire Shelton said that, as a former coach with the Stockton Saints track and field club, he saw that Tracy had many local athletes who could make it to national competition. All it would take was someone to get them organized and pointed in the right direction.
“I wanted to grab the talent that was here in Tracy, because a lot of that talent had to go to different cities to compete with other teams,” he said.
With the help of some experienced coaching, Shelton said all of the local athletes have shown progress since they started working out together in February.
“That’s what amazed me, to see how they’re performing,” Shelton said. “Toward the end of the season, we see them progress and build themselves. They’re knocking their times down, and they’re being real competitive.”
Among the five who will go to Texas, his son Deion Lightfoot-Shelton, 13, will compete in two hurdle events, the 400-meter dash, and the triple jump and the long jump. It’s Lightfoot-Shelton’s second trip to the Junior Olympics after he competed in New Orleans in 2011.
“One of the things I really like about it is how we get to travel to different places to see all the new competition, and friends,” Lightfoot-Shelton said. “If I know someone’s in that state that has a faster time than me, it pushes me to work harder.”
Jacob Peebles, 12, will also go to Houston. The excitement of reaching national competition in his first year of sprinting is his motivation to prepare for the meet.
“I knew I needed to train more to keep up with all the other fast kids that are going to be there,” he said.
Also heading to the Junior Olympics is Tracy’s Shaelyn Hawkins, 12, who runs the 800 meters and the 80-meter hurdles and competes in the long jump. She said it’s encouraging to succeed, considering her background in a variety of sports.
“I get really happy, because I did it and I tried my best,” she said. “Even if I win or lose, I still tried my best.”
Hawkins added that her Blazin’ Jaguar teammates made a big difference.
“There’s a lot of competition between us,” she said. “It’s not like playing around, but fun competition.”
A’Leia Terry, 14, and Amaya Terry, 12, will also travel to Houston, where A’Leia will compete in the 400- and 800-meter running events and Amaya will compete in shot put and discus and one distance event.
Both girls said they could feel the difference their training made.
Amaya knows her training is kicking in when she sprints around the bases in softball, and A’Leia said the team inspired her to reach higher.
“This team helps me, because I get proper training and the athletes here push me to do my best,” A’Leia Terry said.
The Tracy athletes had to qualify at one of two recent regional meets. Those who finished among the top five at the AAU Northern California National Qualifier, June 13 to 16 in Tulare, were eligible to compete in Houston.
The Blazin’ Jaguars qualified more athletes at the AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Championships in Reno, June 28 to July 1, where the top eight in each event got the invitation to Houston.
Even many who qualified but won’t travel to the national competition have found the team to be an ideal athletic outlet.
Carmell Kendall said her 8-year-old daughter Corinne has always loved to run, but now she’s also taken up throwing events. Corinne hit a qualifying mark in the shot put at the Reno meet, though she doesn’t plan to go to Houston.
“She’s tried a whole bunch of other sports, and it wasn’t her thing. She’s a very individual person,” Kendall said, adding that her daughter took to track and field right away. “As shy as she is, she did extremely well. She just blossomed and was really proud of herself and what she achieved.”
While the team has the same mascot and colors as Kimball High’s team and works out at Don Nicholson Stadium, coach Shelton said they are separate programs. The youth team pays fees to Tracy Unified School District to have workouts at the high school.
Shelton said the team also practices at local parks and has gone to Lathrop High to practice, though the athletes work out with the Kimball High team when they can. The early education helps the athletes when they reach the high school level, the coach said.
“It’s less work for the high school coaches, just to try to teach them form and everything that I’m teaching them now at an early age,” Shelton said. “As long as I’m doing something positive for the kids, they welcome me during their time here at the track.”
The eight Tracy athletes who are eligible to compete at the AAU Junior Olympics, July 27 to Aug. 4, in Houston, first had to qualify at one of two recent regional meets.
Those who finished among the top five at the AAU Northern California National Qualifier, June 13 to 16 in Tulare, include Deion Lightfoot-Shelton in the Youth boys division. He won both the 100-meter hurdles (14.94 seconds) and the 200 hurdles (28.52) and was fourth in the 400 meters (57.01).
In the Midget boys, Jacob Peebles won the 200 (26.47) and the 400 (58.47) and was second in the 100 (13.02).
Shaelyn Hawkins also qualified at Tulare in the Midget division. She placed second in three events, the 800 (2:40.33), the 80 hurdles (16.19) and the long jump (14 feet, 9 inches).
Amaya Terry, also in the Midget division, placed third in the shot put (17-2).
Others who qualified at Tulare but who will not make the trip to Houston are K.J. Moody, 13, who placed second in the Sub-Youth boys 800 (2:29.58) and third in the 1,500 (5:23.36); and Rashid Potter, 11, who won the Sub-Midget boys 400 (1:05.78) and was fifth in the 200 (29.27).
The Blazin’ Jaguars qualified more athletes at the AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Championships in Reno, June 28 to July 1, where the top eight in each event gained an invitation to Houston.
Lightfoot-Shelton improved his time in the 100 hurdles (14.52) and was second in the triple jump (35-6), and eighth in the long jump (15-7).
A’Leia Terry was fourth in the Youth girls 800 (2:59.35) and high jump (3-8) and eighth in the 400 (1:07.46). Amaya Terry qualified again in the Midget girls with a second-place throw in the discus (36-4) and a third-place finish in the 1,500 (11:01.36).
Qualifying in the Primary girls division was Corinne Kendall, 8, with a fourth-place mark in the shot put (12-8.5). She is not going to the Houston event.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.