The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Lansing 10-year-old claims national championship

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  • Mark Mitchell, Jr., a 10-year-old athlete from Lansing, had previously been in the position he found himself in Aug. 1 at the AAU Track and Field Junior Olympics.
    As a three-time medalist in the long jump at the Junior Olympics, Mitchell was experienced for the event. Coming in to the finals, he was seeded second to 2013's long jump national champion, Pierce Thomas, who was back to defend his title.
    Mitchell approached his last jump of the meet after Thomas notched a mark of 17 feet, making it Mitchell's last opportunity for the championship.
    "I was nervous," said Mitchell, Jr. "I got up on the runway, I did my step-back thing and then I ran as fast as I ever had and jumped. And it was a good jump."
    His final jump of 17 feet and 3 inches gave him the lead, and when Thomas scratched his final jump, the title officially belonged to Mitchell.
    His father, Mark Mitchell, Sr., said a lot of preparation by his son went into the title.
    As a successful basketball player as well, Mitchell, Sr. said his son had to balance both sports as he prepared for the Junior Olympics, and he said his final jump showed how much his hard work paid off.
    "He worked on a lot of technique, studied a lot of film," the champion's dad said. "He did a lot of upper-body strength, a lot of core work. He just really worked on technique, and I think, ultimately, more control."
    Mitchell, Sr. is the coach of his son's track team, RICE Athletics, which had five athletes qualify for the Junior Olympics. RICE is a non-profit athletic program that hosts an AAU Track and Field team and basketball skills clinics.
    Aside from the team's national champion, RICE Athletics had multiple athletes compete successfully at the Junior Olympics.
    Isaac Ativie, a 9-year-old who attends MacArthur Elementary School, was seeded 43rd in the 400-meter dash heading into the meet. By the time he was done racing, Ativie had finished in 19th place in the country with a time of 1:08.95, nearly five seconds faster than the time he'd been seeded at.
    Eleven-year-old Julie Jenkins was a first-time competitor in the Junior Olympic finals in the long jump. Her jump of 11 feet and 7 inches saw her finish 37th at the meet.
    Fourteen-year-old Andrew Ativie finished 26th overall in the long jump after achieving a mark of 17 feet and 8 inches.
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