Wednesday, July 25, 2007

G. Counsel relay in track Junior Olympics

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Rising Good Counsel juniors Mike Wallace, Jelani Jenkins and Caleb Porzel, and rising senior Chris Brown were prominent in Falcons athletics last year. Jenkins, Porzel and Wallace helped the football squad to a 10-2 record and Brown was a soccer and wrestling standout.

The four are innate athletes, but track and field had never been on any of their lists until Falcons track coach Buddy Crutchfield lured them in this past spring. Their natural athleticism kicked in quickly and the quartet excelled, finishing second in the 4x100-meter relay at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Championships in May.

That success continued this summer, as the team will represent Crutchfield’s Rockville Striders Youth Track Club at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics, July 24-29 at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.

Athletes earn bids to Junior Olympics through results at qualifying meets during the season. There are six age groups, for both boys and girls, to compete in — young, intermediate, youth, midget, bantam and sub-bantam.

Jenkins, Brown, Porzel and Wallace compete in the intermediate boys category (those born in 1991 and 1992) and finished second in the 4x100 at the USATF Potomac Valley Association Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships on June 17. That qualified them for regionals in Virginia last weekend.

There are 16 regions in the country and the top three finishers at each qualify for the USATF Junior Olympics. Jenkins, Brown, Porzel and Wallace again finished second at the Region 2 meet, which featured teams from the Mid-Atlantic, New Jersey, Niagara and Three Rivers areas.

‘‘This is a huge accomplishment for anyone,” Crutchfield said. ‘‘But considering this is only their first year running track, it’s amazing.”

While many of their peers have spent the summer relaxing, enjoying their break from school, Jenkins, Wallace, Porzel and Brown have spent more than 10 hours a week honing their skills, working on their starts and handoffs.

It has paid off. Their goals at Junior Olympics are to lower their personal-best time of 42.5 seconds and to reach the finals. They’re quickly learning what they’re capable of and gaining confidence with each week. And so early in their track and field careers, their best is likely ahead of them.

‘‘I told the kids I’m very proud of them getting to nationals in their first year competing,” Crutchfield said.