The Las Vegas Heat Youth Track Club sent the most athletes in its history to the largest Junior Olympics event on record.
Sixteen runners competed among the 7,000 nationwide participants at the weeklong July event in Cessna Stadium in Wichita, Kan.
Only one athlete, Malik Milton, 9, came away with a medal, a bronze, in the 1,500-meter race. That was six fewer than last year, but the team wasn’t discouraged.
Capt. Cedric Williams, the spokesman for the North Las Vegas Fire Department who coaches the team, said the athletes had a positive experience. For most of them, it was their first time competing in the event.
“Many of them realized how competitive it is in the country,” Williams said. “They were definitely with what you consider to be the best talent in the country, and they did well. The one thing I remember them saying, while they were writing down their goals for next year, was that they’ll be back — not only that they are coming back but that they’ll be medaling.”
It was a tough realization for 14-year-old Aryn Maxwell, who aspired to win a medal in the 800-meter run.
“Sometimes you’re psyching yourself out,” Aryn said. “Sometimes you’re, like, ‘Oh, I’m ready for this.’ “
Because there were so many competitors, the event became confusing at times, she added.
She was at the line when the starting gun was fired.
It was faster than she expected. She hadn’t quite gotten her footing.
“That messed up the rest of the race,” Aryn said. “I guess I wasn’t ready … I didn’t know it was going to go that fast. Normally, I have good starts, but I had a bad one, so I was two seconds behind.”
She finished fifth out of 12 competitors in her heat. She finished in 22nd place in the country.
“I want to go there again and get a medal this time,” Aryn said. “I want to come back.”
None of the team’s athletes were ranked lower than 24th nationwide in their events. The relay team was ranked 16th.
Williams said the team will work on off-season conditioning including pool work and strengthening exercises.
“Unlike other seasons where everybody’s tired, they were ready to get back on the track,” he said. “It motivated them more than anything about coming back next year.”
Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at email@example.com or 383-0492.For more information about the Las Vegas Heat Youth Track Club, visit online at lasvegasheat.org, call 466-9387 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.