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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Leavenworth senior competes at AAU Junior Olympics

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  • Incoming Leavenworth High School senior Jared Belardo has seen big meets before.
    But the reigning Kansas State Triple Jump Champion brought his experience to the biggest American Athletic Union (AAU) meet of the year, the AAU Junior Olympics Track and Field meet in Des Moines, Iowa, and he said a combination of the atmosphere and his performance hindered his final product Monday and Tuesday.
    Belardo finished 10th overall in the Triple Jump Monday with a jump of 43 feet and 4.75 inches, four feet short of his mark at the Kansas state meet earlier this year. He scratched two of his three jumps and he said it hurt his chances in the Long Jump Tuesday.
    "Things didn't go as planned (Monday) in the Triple Jump," Belardo said. "I wasn't on board and that affected my performance (Tuesday in the Long Jump)."
    The coach of the Track Boys Track Club, the AAU club that Belardo trains with in the summer, Dwayne Baldwin said his scratches were almost too close to call.
    "He didn't have the performance you wanted," Baldwin said. "If you look at his mark if he hadn't scratched the Triple (Jump), he probably would've been the AAU Junior champion. ... He was scratching by a toenail."
    Belardo finished 21st overall in the Long Jump, finishing with a mark of 21 feet and 1.75 inches.
    Despite a lower-than-expected perofrmance, Belardo said he was pleased with his summer season, during which he competed in three meets — including the New Balance National Meet in Greensboro, N.C., the AAU Regional Qualifying Meet in Joplin, Mo.
    But he's not finished in Des Moines yet. The jumper is also running in the 4-by-400-meter relay Thursday and the 4-by-100-meter relay Friday. Baldwin said when he told Belardo that he had entered him into the 4-by-100 after already being in three events, he didn't complain but rather asked his coach if he was being asked to step up.
    When Baldwin told him that he was, all Belardo said was "Yes, sir."
    "Jared is an absolute student," Baldwin said. "He'll ask for advice. Any advice you give him ... he just says, 'Yes, I'll do it."
    Because of this work ethic and attitude, Baldwin said he expects Belardo to continue reaching new heights in the sport.
    "He's definitely a Division 1 athlete," Baldwin said. "I expect to see Jared within two years at the NCAA Championships."
    Leavenworth High School has other track and field athletes competing with the Track Boys in Des Moines as well. Senior three-time state champion thrower Willie Morrison will be throwing today and Thursday, Clifford Robinson III ran the 200-meter dash today, Demetrius Heath competed in the Long Jump and the 110-meter hurdles and Jasmine Swanagan threw discus and will throw shot put today.

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