Ashley County athletes prepare for Junior Olympics

Dewayne Ashford competes in a high jump event at an AAU meet in Oklahoma. Ashford is one of the Ashley County athletes preparing to participate in the Junior Olympics in North Carolina.

Athletes from Crossett and Hamburg are currently training to compete in the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Championship track and field event in Greensboro, N.C., later this month.

Shameka Martin, coach of the south Arkansas Elite track team, said she had five athletes from Ashley County qualify to compete at the national level this year.

Cierra Tucker and Emily Miller, both students at Hamburg High School, each qualified to compete in the 4 by 100-meter dash and the 100-meter relay events.

Kameron Williams, a Crossett High School student, said he typically competes in the 4 by 100-meter relay, the 400-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the 100-meter dash, but in North Carolina he will be running in the 400-meter dash.

Williams said that he is excited to compete and hopes to come home with a medal.

Shawn Keith Jr. said he will compete in the discus event for the second year in a row.

Keith’s strongest field events are the shot put throw and the discus throw.

Last year, Keith brought home a silver medal in the 11-year old group for a discus throw of 83 feet.

Keith has already topped that score in a qualifying meet earlier this year where he threw 98 feet.

Keith said he will compete in the discus event in North Carolina.

“I hope I win, but I am just going to go and do my best,” Keith said.

Dewayne Ashford, also from Crossett, qualified to compete in the high jump, triple jump and long jump.

Ashford said this will be his third time competing at junior olympics.

At the AAU Arkansas District qualifier, Ashford won first place in the high jump with a jump of 6-02, in the long jump with a 21-01.25 and in the triple jump with a jump of 38-03.

The track and field events for the 2019 AAU Junior Olympic Championship will be July 28 through Aug. 3 at the A&T University field in Greensboro.

“I don’t expect to go there and win it all, but I expect to do good and I’m exited to compete with the top athletes of the country,” Ashford said.

The AAU was founded in 1888 to establish standards and uniformity in amateur sports. During its early years, the AAU served as a leader in international sport representing the United States in the international sports federations.

According to the history published on their website, the AAU worked closely with the Olympic movement to prepare amateur athletes for the Olympic games.

After the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 and the establishment of the United States Olympic Committee, the AAU has focused its efforts into providing sports programs for participants of all ages beginning at the grass roots level

Since its beginning in Washington, D.C., the AAU Junior Olympic Games have been conducted in 19 states and 30 cities across the United States. The state of Tennessee leads the way with six AAU Junior Olympic Games to its credit.

According to their website, the games’ popularity have exploded to now represent all 50 states and several United States territories and are now known as the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the United States. The future hosts include Des Moines, Iowa; Hampton Roads, Va.; Houston, and Detroit.

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