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Striders make nationals

School hasn’t started back quite yet, and coach BJ Kennedy has his track and field club staying busy this summer.

At the AAU Region National Qualifying Championships hosted at Lovejoy High School’s Twelve Oaks Stadium in Hampton. It was Georgia vs South Carolina with the chance to go to the AAU Jr. Olympic National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa from July 28-August 2.

Eight of Kennedy’s athletes qualified for nationals.

Benjamin Kennedy: Long jump/triple jump/javelin
Benjamin helps out with the team as a coach as well. They look up to him, because he’s the oldest and he’s in college.

Demarshae Travis: Long jump
BJ Kennedy said that Travis is a really good athlete, and he’s really special.

Reece Burton: 800-meter/javelin
“His time, his jump, everything he does, everything he touches he does well. He’s very enthusiastic about track and field. He’s so good that he’s often helped out coaching,” BJ Kennedy said. “He’s not just going to be a good athlete, he’s a good student also.”

Summer Holtz: 80-meter hurdle/800-meter
“She’s a really good talent. We’ve got to get everything put together for her to really go far. She’s done really well every year,” BJ Kennedy said. “She started last year and she dropped her time this year.”

Keira Tace-Mann: Discus/shot put
“She tries hard, it’s her first year. Looking forward for her to go places,” BJ Kennedy said.

Younger Burton:
Turbo javelin/shot put
BJ Kennedy said that she pushes herself to another level, and that she can be really good.

Zoe Taylor:
Turbo javelin
“Taylor really pushed herself. She’s not the best athlete, so she pushed herself at the end to go where she needs to go,” BJ Kennedy said.

Brandon Gibson: Mini-javelin
“He has a lot of spunk in him. He doesn’t complain, he runs with the big kids in practice. He’s fascinated with track programs,” BJ Kennedy said.

Coaches: BJ Kennedy (head coach). Angelynn Kennedy (assistant coach). Ben Kennedy (athlete/coach). Erica Pace (assistant coach). Akila Murray (assistant coach). Mikayla Taylor (assistant coach).

Gibson is the youngest on the team at age six. His sister, Alexis Hardy qualified for the USA Track and Field (USATF) Jr. Olympic Regionals in Rockhill, South Carolina. BJ Kennedy says that Gibson tries to keep up with her and he’s very competitive.

“These kids are not just good athletes. All these kids are good students also,” BJ Kennedy said.
BJ Kennedy said for a lot of these kids, it’s their first time or second year and they really put it on. He said he was proud of each and every one of them, even the kids that didn’t make it.

“My club is a mentorship program and it mentors them for their self-esteem, working with others and being a leader. This is more of a mentorship program to teach these kids to be leaders in their community,” BJ Kennedy said.

“We’re trying to get more local businesses to help sponsor these kids. A lot of times it’s hard for the parents to go, especially when you don’t have any extra money. These kids in our community can go.”