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Track teams eye junior games

Phenom Track and Field, Comets are preparing for national events

Posted: July 12, 2009 10:00 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
On Aug. 1, members of Phenom Track and Field will compete in the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines, Iowa.

Phenom Track and Field is a Santa Clarita-based youth organization with participants ranging from elementary school to high school-aged kids.

And despite a substantial drop in enrollment, the program has not lost a step.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

“To our surprise, this is the strongest team I have had in the seven years of coaching Phenom Track and Field,” said head coach David Joseph, a former two-sport athlete at Tulane University. “Every single athlete qualified. Really a wonderful thing.”

Held at Drake University, the AAU Junior Olympic Games run Aug. 1-8.

Phenom will carry a wave of momentum after a strong showing at the AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games July 2-5 in Reno, Nev.
One such reason is 13-year-old Vincent Saucer.

Saucer won the 200-meter dash in 22.61 seconds and the 100 with a time of 11.10 in the youth division.

Age groups include an under-9 division, bantam (9 to 10 years old), midget (11 to 12), youth (13 to 14), intermediate (15 to 16) and men and women (17 to 18).

Teammate Jimmy Banuelos was also impressive in Reno, winning the 400 in 54.78 and placing third in the 200 (24.67).

Garrett Robinson, also in the youth division, won the 1,500 (4:59.46) and Rawston Redick took bronze in the 100 (11.94).

Valencia sophomore Jasmine Hall also took gold in the heptathlon, which combines seven different events. Hall won by 463 points.

Other strong performances included Jessie Crine, who came in fourth in the 100 with a time of 13.23 in the intermediate division, and Justin Davis took silver in the 800 (2:51.20) in the midget division. Sharyl Reaves placed second in the 200 (31.29) for bantams, followed by Phaedra Robinson in fifth (33.98), and Jasmine Perkins claimed seventh in the 200 (28.21).

Other standout performers for the team have included Isaiah Bernard, Morgan Simon Xavier Menifield, Xiomara Perkins and Alexandria Gambala.

“We don’t put a big emphasis on placement,” said assistant coach Antonio Robinson before the event. “For us, our big focus is on your own personal records.”

It is when the athletes best their own marks that Robinson says the coaches “feel like we have done our job.”

Joseph has taken a professional- and collegiate-level training regimen and scaled it down to fit each individual age group.

Each athlete is taught the event and is kept from blindly looking at the awards podium.

“If you ask them what they run, ‘Coach, I run the 200-meter,’” Joseph said. “Now ask them how they run it. That is what is going to throw you for a loop. They know how to execute every single race. That is something I believe we have the advantage in.”

Their national rankings and placement in high-profile events are proof positive of the success of the program, which plans to add tutoring services in math, English and science, to go along with its strength and agility training for track and field, basketball, football and tennis.

“We are proud of these kids,” Robinson said. “They work really hard and it will be nice to see them represent Santa Clarita in Iowa and Reno. It puts us on the map.”

But Phenom isn’t the only organization making waves nationally.

The Southern California Comets, described by midget division coach Bill Carson as a “postseason team,” takes the top athletes from the Valley Conference and streamlines their training to compete in top-tier meets.

The Comets will take part in the United States Track and Field Junior Olympics, held in Greensboro, N.C., from July 28 through August 2.

The Valley Conference is made up of teams from the Santa Clarita Valley, San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas.

Local athletes include Austin Lietz, Nathan Bultman, and Alexandria Florent, all of whom have already won national championships.

Lietz will be competing in the high jump, 400, 4x100 and 4x400 relays in Greensboro. Bultman will throw the shot put and javelin, and Florent will be in the high jump. All will compete in the midget division.

They will be joined by bantam athletes Bailey Pate, Adaugo Oguejifor and Ben Kaufman, as well as midget division competitors Chanel Rogers, Stone Jackson, Tucker Welker, Colin Samuel, Mac Kaufman and J.T. Hill. Asia Watts will compete in the youth division.

Qualifiers first had to compete in an association meet, which pitted athletes from local regions of Southern California against each other.

The top eight finishers from each event moved on to a regional meet, where they took on opponents from Nevada, Hawaii, San Diego and Imperial Valley, among other parts of Southern California.

According to Carson, the region is “one of the hardest in the nation.”

The top three from regionals qualified for the Junior Olympics.

At such a young age, these young athletes have already distinguished themselves in ways that most children their age cannot claim.

“The majority of the kids are already at top of their game,” Carson said.

pputignano@the-signal.com

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