Zoom track team leads local qualifiers for AAU Junior Olympics
By Robyn Murrell
The Tallahassee Zoom track and field team made quite a haul at the AAU Region 9 qualifying meet. Now that the club has put 38 athletes into the Junior Olympics, the challenge is to prove they could compete with the best junior athletes in the nation.
Assistant coach Diane Hadley insisted that her team would do better than just show up for the event in Houston.
“It’s very exciting we know the kids worked hard to get to this point, it’s like the end of the year bash,” she said, following the qualifying meet this past Saturday at FSU’s Mike Long Track. “The challenge for us today is to instill in our kids don’t just qualify for nationals but prepare yourself to be competitive at nationals.”
The four-day meet attracted teams from throughout Florida and Georgia. Area teams included the Capital City Christian Cruisers, Tallahassee Trailblazers, Tallahassee Zoom, Tallahassee Striders and Big Bend Striders.
Zoom will have the largest single contingent of athletes in Houston next month.
Trentorria Green, 16, and Justin Peter, also 16, are among those who will be making the trip to the national meet for Zoom. Green qualified to compete in the long jump, triple jump and the 200-meter race.
She credits her coaches for preparing her to compete at such a high level.
“I think that we train the hardest,” said Green. “So it’s like hard work pays off, you always have to push for that.”
Justin Peter who has been with the club for seven years qualified for nationals in the long jump, triple jump and 400-meter hurdles. A top-eight finish in Houston will give him All-American status.
“I think I can become an All-American,” he said. “I believe I can place top eight in both events. I just have to make sure I’m focused.”
While no other team had as many qualifiers as Zoom, the Big Bend Striders will have the most athletes from one family. Clifford Hammonds has three children who run with the Striders.
Hammond’s 7-year-old daughter, Clidraya, won first place in the 1500-meter race to stamp her ticket to Houston. She immediately pronounced herself ready to be competitive against a field that will include some of the nation’s best junior runners.
Hammond doesn’t doubt her, especially because of the work the family has put in.
“We build a relationship with the Big Bend striders and we wanted to be in a track family; this is a track family,” he said. “It allows them to have something to look forward to an opportunity to go to Houston and compete for the Junior Olympics.”