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Area athletes Junior Olympics bound

By Tyler Clifton tclifton@news-journal.com
July 21, 2012 at 11 p.m.


The summer of 2012 has been a great season for 11 young track & field athletes from Hallsville and Marshall who are competing as part of the "For His Glory" Track & Field Club.

This group of young men recently represented the community and East Texas at the USATF Region 12 Track & Field Championships at Texas Tech University. They qualified to compete at the 2012 USATF Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships on July 23-29 at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Eight of the 11 athletes will attend the games, including Marshall's Troy Jones, who joined the club and along with Hallsville's Drelynn Johnson, is looking to take his talents to the collegiate level.

"We've got two very experienced runners who are still deciding where they're going to compete this fall and three soon-to-be seniors who are being talked to by college coaches," club coach Dean McDaniel said. "We also have some younger runners who are gaining experience for their high school careers."

The club has been a success under McDaniel's leadership, and the national games are held in different regions each summer from such locales as Sacramento, Calif., to Wichita, Kan. to Baltimore. It allows these young men to train against top-notch competition from across the country.

The training regimens which allowed the team to be successful at the regional meet are being continued entering the start of Monday's games.

"The kids are continuing their training, putting in the miles and keeping their bodies at a top level," McDaniel said. "It takes a big commitment, because many people take the summer off, but these kids are doing what they can to stay sharp physically, mentally and technically."

McDaniel has coached many talented athletes throughout the numerous events he's attended in the past. Landon Lacy is one which vividly came to mind after competing four times, as well as Jake Greer and Cody Blankenship, who are competing in their second national championship in as many years.

McDaniel fondly remembers Blankenship finishing second in the nation last year in the 15-16 year-old age group in the high jump, where he defeated the likes of Randall Cunningham II, whose father Randall is a former NFL quarterback for Philadelphia, Minnesota, Dallas and Baltimore.

"I've been to several of these Junior Olympic meets, and these guys bring track and field to another level," McDaniel said. "They have to make such a commitment, and we've made a spiritual connection as well, which is obvious when it comes to our team name. We've been blessed when it comes to provisions, and I'm grateful and thankful for the opportunity we have to compete hard and have fun."

Jones, who advanced to last year's state cross country meet in Austin and has run a sub 16-minute 5K and sub-10 minute two-mile, will be competing in the steeplechase and 3,000 meters as well as sophomore Tracie Foster.

Senior Jesse Rodriguez is competing in all three long-distance events as well as Greer, who will perform in the steeplechase for the first time. Rodriguez and Jake Gray are Hallsville's top returnees in 2012.

Blankenship, who competed in the decathlon for the first time at the regional meet in Lubbock, will be joined in the high jump by sophomore Bradley Beaty, who is also competing in the triple jump. Junior Dustin Fyffe advanced to the national meet in the high jump but is unable to attend.

Junior Matt Godwin is one of the unique stories of 2012, as the middle and long-distance runner will compete in the javelin after his throw of more than 140 feet after less than a month of training. McDaniel said sophomore Jaylon Kerby (decathlon) is possibly the most excited athlete making the trip.

Freshmen Garrett Graff (discus and shot put) and Braylon Smith (shot put) are also unable to attend.

Hunter Hammontree, club member and rising freshman from Elysian Fields, is a future high school talent who posted a triple jump of more than 40 feet in regional action.

Every summer brings a different dynamic," McDaniel said. "These kids share my love for track and field."

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