A youth Atlanta track club is looking to win big at the 2019 U.S. Junior Olympics in Sacramento next week.
“Half of them actually have been once before and that excitement is even bigger,” said team coach Marvin Shannon. “It’s doubled in excitement.”
Shannon, 63, heads the Atlanta Lightspeed Track Club, one of the USA Track & Field clubs in the state that offers a place for young athletes to participate in track events. The club has four age groups participating in several events at the Junior Olympics.
Sixteen track club members are heading to California State University’s Hornet Stadium for the July 22-28 competition. Nearly 70,000 young athletes participate in the annual event, according to the USATF website.
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USA Track & Field is a nonprofit organization that governs running events at the local, state, national and international level.
The teams have been training since June 1, and participated in regional events in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Shannon and another coach started the track team in 2002 to expand the opportunities for young track athletes in the city. The track and field season is typically during spring months. USA Track & Field clubs allow for young athletes to participate through the end of July.
“It was just that desire to keep going,” Shannon said of creating the club.
Athletes that have come through the program include sibling sprinters Cedric and Chalonda Goodman and brothers Micah Abernathy and Ralph David Abernathy IV, the sons of late Georgia state senator and civil rights advocate Ralph David Abernathy III.
At last year’s U.S. Junior Olympics, Shannon said one of his runners won a gold medal in the 100-meter competition. But Shannon said he doesn’t want athletes to get caught up in the hype of winning. Instead, he wants them to focus on their personal record.
“My philosophy, to be honest, is you don’t always have to come in first,” he said. “As long as (your personal record) gets better, you’re good.”
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