The Palmetto Striders Track Club is sending six athletes to the AAU Track and Field National Championships.
The Lowcountry athletes punched their ticket to the Championships by making qualifying times/marks in their events during the AAU Region 8 Qualifier June 27-30 at Eastside High School. Only the top few placers from regional meets across the country will advance to represent their club at the National Championships scheduled for later this month.
Cane Bay rising sophomore Jayvion Johnson qualified in the 100-meter Dash with an 11.26 time and in the 200 with a 22.56 time.
He also competes in the 400. He didn’t advance to AAU nationals in that event, but as a high school athlete was a state qualifier in the 400 last spring. Johnson was also a running back for the Cobra B-team Football program in the fall.
“In the 400 I ran a 50.41 in the prelims but I wasn’t in the right mind set for the finals and placed eighth,” he said. “I’m pleased with that 22.37 because the race was smooth, it didn’t feel like I was on that pace at the time.”
His 400 prelim time at the regional meet, as well as his 11.08 time in the 100 prelim and 22.37 time in the 200 prelim, are all a Personal Record so he is optimistic as he prepares for his final meet of the summer.
“I really just need to run my race and focus on the things I need to in order to get the times a want,” he said.
Summerville High School rising junior Kamryn White qualified in the 100 with a 12.34 time.
“The regional meet went ok but I feel I could have done better,” White said. “I ran a 12.26 in the prelims. I’m progressing in my events and that motivates me to keep working hard.”
Her Personal Record in the 100 is 11.99 and her top mark in the 200 is 25.29.
Fort Dorchester rising senior Kynnedy Dennis qualified in the 1500 with a 5:40.15 PR time.
She also participated in the 800 and 400 at the qualifier. In fact, she set a new PR in the 400 there with a 1:03.13 time. As a Fort Dorchester athlete, she was a state qualifier in the pole vault last spring and a state qualifier for the Patriot Cross Country Team in the fall.
“I was very disappointed with my 400 and 800 times, but not so much with my 1500 because this is my first year in that event,” she said. “I’m excited about this opportunity. I think it is going to be a lot of fun.”
Three Palmetto Striders’ jumpers are advancing to Nationals.
Ashley Ridge 2019 graduate Nia Portis had a PR 10.38-meters mark in the Triple Jump at regionals to qualify.
She also participated in the Long Jump at regionals, but her 4.97-meter jump put her shy of qualifying for the event. She will join the Wingate University Track and Field Team in the fall so for her the summer training is especially important.
“I’m excited about this next meet and going to college to join their program,” she said. “Hopefully I can do better at Nationals than I did at Regionals.”
Ashley Ridge rising freshman Leila Mcclough qualified in both the Triple Jump with a 10.81 PR mark and Long Jump with a 4.92 PR mark.
She also participated in the 200 Hurdles, but her 34.48 time in the event wasn’t good enough for advancement.
“I’m excited about qualifying and just hope I can stay focused,” she said. “Because we don’t run relays the focus is more on you. It’s kind of like you are on your own, but there are people still around to help you push yourself.”
Fort Dorchester rising senior Jerald Howard qualified in the Long Jump with a 6.59-meters mark.
“I need to stay locked in and keep practicing hard,” he said. “This is my first time going to Nationals so I want to do my best.”
He claimed a region championship for the Long Jump in the spring and is also a returning forward for the Patriots Boys Basketball Team. His high school PR in the long jump is 22-feet, 10 inches.
The Summerville-based Palmetto Striders Track Club is open to Lowcountry athletes age 14-18. In addition to its summer program, the club has a fall indoor track program. The team is coached by Oliver Savela, Twon Williams and Kaishon Murray, who are all volunteers.
“These athletes come from different high school programs and their hard work really stands out,” Savela said. “Summer is a time when athletes might not want to train but the kids in this program come here Monday through Friday. They are dedicated which is great because we want to work one-on-one with them as much as we can. We are hoping that we can help them develop and put them in a better position for their next high-school season.”
The Striders compete against athletes from other states and Savela says that helps show them what they need to do every year to perform at their top level. However, the travel involved makes sponsors critical for the program.
“I want to thank our sponsors and everyone who helps our track program,” Savela said. “God bless them because their support helps us grow as a club.”