For 10 years, the Sugaw Creek Recreation Center has fielded a team in the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department’s youth track and field program.
With 124 participants this year, the Sugaw Creek Jaguars is one of the largest teams in the county.
The Win With Integrity program holds countywide track and field meets from March through May. Considered a recreational-level program, Win With Integrity is open to youths age 4-18 years old and offers a number of running, jumping and throwing events.
Once the Win With Integrity season was over, however, some Sugaw Creek athletes were interested in continuing their season on a more competitive level. As a result, head coach Cynthia Smith-Perkins developed an extension of the Jaguars program.
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For the first time, Sugaw Creek is supporting athletes in USATF and AAU events, allowing them to compete against some of the top runners, jumpers and throwers in the nation.
On Aug. 2, Imunique Archie, Kendal McDougald and Cheyla Scott will finish their events at the 2015 USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Jacksonville, Fla.
Imunique is a 13-year-old long jumper and middle sprinter. Kendal, 10, is a long-distance runner, and Cheyla, a tall, slender 9-year-old, specializes in the triathlon, a combination of running, jumping and throwing events.
“It’s good to keep the kids together,” said Tanya Filmore, a Jaguars and Swift coach and Cheyla Scott’s mother. “We used to have to pick other (competitive) programs. Now we can keep our relays together. The bond is already built.”
The Sugaw Creek team, known as the Carolina Swift, is new enough that the athletes continue to run with the status they held last year. Imunique and Kendal compete as unattached, and Cheyla runs for the Charlotte Flights, another local track and field program.
All three athletes recently performed well at the Region 3 meet in Hampton, Va., on July 9-12. Imunique, who lives in the Spring Park neighborhood, placed second in the long jump in the 13- to 14-year-old division.
“The secret to being a good long jumper is running fast and jumping as far as you can and reaching as far as you can,” said Imunique, a rising eighth-grader at Oaklawn Language Academy. “I’m a fast runner and I have long legs.”
Cheyla won the 9- to 10-year-old girls’ triathlon, an event comprised of the 200-meter dash, long jump and shot put. Of the three events, Cheyla won the 200 meters and the high jump and finished second in the shot put.
In the open events, Cheyla won the 100 meters, finished second in the high jump and fourth in the 400 meters. She did not compete in the open shot put.
Entering the Junior Olympic Nationals, Cheyla was the national points leader in the triathlon. Last year, she achieved all-American status in the high jump, and in 2013 she won national titles in the 100 and 200 meters.
“Running is the best, because I’m good at that,” said Cheyla. “But I’m good at high jump, too. I started the triathlon so I can show people I do track and field.”
Kendal, who became interested in running long distances to fend off boredom at his brother’s football practices at the University City YMCA, placed fourth in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters. His Jaguar/Swift coaches taught him the proper technique for breathing during a long race, and Kendal’s strategy takes over from there.
“I have to pace myself,” he said. “I don’t go too fast in the beginning. (But) I try to not let anyone get too far ahead.”
Cheyla and her brother Peyton, another Swift member, also will be competing in the AAU Junior Olympic Nationals in Norfolk, Va., through Aug. 8.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: email@example.com.