Regional track team heads to Junior Olympics

Published 8:26 pm Friday, July 17, 2015

The 2015 track team is heading to Jacksonville Fla. to participate in the Junior Olympics July 27 - Aug. 2. Members of the team are from Warren County, Port Gibson and regions of the delta.

The 2015 track team is heading to Jacksonville Fla. to participate in the Junior Olympics July 27 – Aug. 2. Members of the team are from Warren County, Port Gibson and regions of the delta.

Mississippi is known for its hot summers, which is a fitting name for a track team preparing for the junior Olympics.

Clarence Maxey, the head coach for the Mississippi Heat track and field team, trained the team three days a week for two hours to prepare for the upcoming Junior Olympics.

“Some of them have been training since March,” Maxey said. “The smaller kids have been out here since March and the bigger kids come out after their high school season is over.”

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Maxey said everyone is improving and times are getting faster as they try to reach their peak for the events. He wants his team to try and win as many medals as they can, set new personal records or accomplish both.

The Mississippi Heat track team has athletes from Warren County, Porters Chapel and regions of the Delta. The team is made up of about 30 kids from ages 8- to 21-years old.

The older athletes participate in open events, which are meant for runners over the age of 19. Of the 30 athletes Maxey has, only four are in college.

When the team returns from the Junior Olympics, Maxey will have the team lifting light weights in the offseason and running indoors.

Maxey has sent athletes to the Junior Olympics every year since 2008 and has won at least one medal since 2010.

Maxey spoke highly about two of his senior athletes Leon Miles and Keiyana Gaskins.

Miles began running track four years ago and has received a full scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi. He started running track as a way to stay active and not lounge around the house.

Miles is competing in his third Junior Olympics of his career and feels accomplished.

“I’ll fell better if I won,” Miles said.

This year Miles wants to come out and medal in the top three. Medals are distributed to an athlete who finishes in the top 8, but he wants to do better.

“He medaled in the 400 hurdles last year so he was an All-American. We’re going back this year with hopes of being better,” Maxey said. “He’s gotten faster and went 48.9 [seconds] in the open 400-meter dash so he’s improved his speed. He’s a much better athlete than he was this time last year.”

Nerves and excitement have hit Miles as he prepares for his events. He hasn’t hit his personal record time of 51 seconds.

Miles trained hard for this event and said his training hasn’t been easy. Last year he suffered from dehydration from not drinking enough water.

“I try to eat right and drink a lot of water,” Miles said. “I try to run hard at practice because if you don’t train hard at practice then you can’t perform for the meet.”

Gaskins started running track in the sixth grade, after she discovered she was faster than the neighborhood boys and girls. This is her fourth year competing in the junior Olympics.

Gaskins has been injured the past few years. In 2012 she won medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash with a hurt hamstring. The team tried to keep the hamstring as loose as possible by wrapping it in a sling and keeping it warm.

Maxey said her desire and competitive spirit kept her in the races.

“She came in as the No. 1 sprinter in the country in the 100-meter dash. They go only by your qualifying time and she had the fastest qualifying time in the country in 2012,” Maxey said.

Gaskins qualifying time in 2012 was 11.96 seconds, which is an excellent time for a then 14-year-old Maxey said.

She hasn’t been able to run under 12 seconds since then, but has been consistent in the 100-meter dash with 12.1 seconds.

This year Gaskins is looking forward to running in the finals in the Junior Olympics. She, like her teammate Miles, has mixed emotions of competing this year.

“I’m nervous because I know I have work to do. I’m kind of excited but I know I have to be strong for my competition,” Gaskins said.

Gaskins and Miles both have future goals of competing in the world Olympics.

Miles wants to use his high school career as a starting point to get to the next level.

Gaskins wants to ultimately get stronger after competition.

“I have to work on my knees and my mentality. It’s not difficult for me to train I just have to left weights.”