Leavenworth trio to compete at AAU Junior Olympics

Jason Brown
The Leavenworth Times
Shown from left are Run Stars track and field athletes James Bunch, Isaac Ativie and Jordan Pettis. The Leavenworth trio is set to compete at the AAU Junior Olympics beginning Saturday in Houston, Texas.

Three Leavenworth youth athletes are set to make their return to the AAU Junior Olympics Saturday in Houston. 

The trio of James Bunch, Isaac Ativie and Jordan Pettis are set to represent Run Stars in the track and field section of the Junior Olympics. All three competitors are back at the Junior Olympics after competing in 2019 and missing 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Run Stars brought its team of 10 youth athletes to the AAU Regional Qualifier June 23-26 in Centerton, Arkansas, to compete in various running and field events. Assistant coach Jessica Pettis said this season has been somewhat unique due to meet locations and other policies relating to the pandemic. 

"This year we got really lucky that a lot of schools weren't allowing people to host track meets," she said. "So we were able to have a lot of meets in our backyard. Normally we travel to local meets in places like Grandview (Missouri) but this year we only really had to go to Park Hill off Barry Road."

Pettis said the Run Stars team helps youth athletes prepare for track and field competition before they have the opportunity to join their middle school teams. Pettis and Bunch were both able to start working on AAU competitions in March this year while Ativie had to wait until his high school season wrapped up due to KSHSAA rules. 

The Run Stars previously qualified eight athletes for the national competition in 2018 but Pettis said there are many factors that are involved in the slight drop in qualifiers. 

"Some kids didn't come back and some moved," she said. "With this being a military community, we do lose some of our athletes. Even with COVID, it really seemed like it was stiff competition."

Pettis will compete in the shot put and discus events in the 11-year-old division after finishing in the top-3 of both events at the regional qualifier. 

Ativie, a sophomore at Leavenworth High School, is slated to compete in the 200-meter dash and the long jump. He is also qualified for the triple jump event – which he was a state qualifier for as a freshman with the Pioneers – but will wait to decide if he can weather an injury and compete. 

"It'll just depend on how his knee is when he gets to Houston," Pettis said. 

Ativie's 200-meter dash time of 23.08 seconds was good for third place at the regional meet and his long jump came in at 21 feet, 1.5 inches for first place. 

Bunch will run the 800-meter run after a fourth-place finish and time of 2:38.30 at regionals.

The Junior Olympics are scheduled to open Saturday in Houston. Track and field events are scheduled to begin Monday at Humble High School in Humble, Texas