After the Track Boys Track Club ended a week of top-level competition at the AAU Track and Field Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa, head coach Dwayne Baldwin said it wasn’t fatigue at the top of their minds.
It was the winter track season.
“As we were left out of the arena … they were like, ‘Oh we can’t wait for indoor season, because high school season is going to be so easy,'” Baldwin said.
The Track Boys, a club that features a handful of Leavenworth High School track and field athletes, competed at the Junior Olympics to mark the end of the summer season.
With the high school season in the spring and indoor season beginning in October, those competing on the national track and field circuit have just two months break from the sport before starting again.
In high school, a state championship is the ultimate prize, but on the national circuit, Baldwin said the goal is to clear the road for a higher education.
“The exposure is great and that’s what you’re looking for at the high school level,” Baldwin said. “You have the ability to obtain an athletic scholarship or an academic scholarship. This is what it’s all about, being (good) enough to get money for college.”
The Track Boys took five Leavenworth athletes to the meet — Jasmine Swanagan and Willie Morrison, who both threw shot put and discus; Jared Belardo, who competed in the triple jump, long jump, 4-by-100 meter relay and 4-by-400 meter relay; Clifford Robinson III, competed in the long jump and 200-meter dash; and Demetrius Heath, who ran in the 110 meter hurdles and 4-by-100 meter relay, and also competed in the long jump.
Baldwin said the top athlete from his squad was incoming Leavenworth senior Morrison. After nabbing first place in shot put and second place in discus at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics last week, Morrison threw a personal record mark in shot put at 64 feet and 6.75 inches and threw 176 feet in discus to earn him two second-place finishes.
Baldwin said what made Morrison stand out besides his performance at the meet was his preparation before and between events.
“He competed really hard,” Baldwin said. “He just put a lot of work in, but he didn’t waste any time doing it. He knew what he had to do, he had a goal and he achieved that goal.”
Demetrius Heath didn’t make finals in any of his events, but the first-time attendee said the experience was invaluable.
Heath graduated from LHS this spring and is planning to run at McPherson College in McPherson, Kan., next fall.
He said that while running against the best in his age group was stiff competition, he enjoyed himself.
“It was tough (competition), really tough,” Heath said. “I loved running against them.”
Belardo was another finalist for the Track Boys in long jump and triple jump. The Kansas State triple jump champion finished 10th overall in the triple with a jump of 43 feet and 4.75 inches, and 21st overall in the long jump with a mark of 21 feet and 1.75 inches.
The team’s attitude leaving the arena, Baldwin said, just shows that the team will come out stronger during next year’s AAU Junior Olympics.
“It was a good team performance,” Baldwin said. “It was a good experience for those who’d never been to the Junior Olympics or a track meet on this type of level. … Everyone’s pretty much set goals for next year already.”