FITCHBURG – Four athletes from the Longmeadow Youth Track program competed at the USA Track & Field (USATF) Junior Olympic regional meet in Fitchburg, July 8-9. The four youth – Gabriel Macias, Amelia Wray, Parker Cullen, and Burleigh Grant – qualified for the meet by placing in the top 8 in their events at the USATF association meet on June 17.
The regional meet July 8-9 attracted over 1,400 top athletes from New York and the six New England states, who had also qualified at their association meets.
Burleigh Grant placed third in the shot put and fifth in the 800m run, which qualified him in both events for the national USATF meet in Lawrence, KS, July 24-30. Grant, competing in the 7-8 year age group, needed to post a season-best throw of 5.36m and a season-best time of 3:16 in order to advance.
Gabriel Macias finished sixth in the 400m dash in the 11-12 year age group, just one place and one second short of qualifying for the national meet. Macias, a standout during the regular Longmeadow Youth Track meets held at Longmeadow High School during April, May, and June, was named “King of the Track” for winning the 400m and the 1,600m at the final Longmeadow meet.
Amelia Wray, coming off a second-place finish at the June 17 association meet, placed eighth in the shot put at the regional meet in the 11-12 age group. Wray’s throws capped a season of strong performances, including a personal-best 8.0 meters.
Parker Cullen, like the other Longmeadow youth, posted a personal best at the regional meet, running the 400m in 1:22 in the 9-10 age group.
The Longmeadow Youth Track program is part of Longmeadow Parks and Recreation, and it saw its enrollment grow to an unprecedented 165 athletes in 2017. The program accepts all children between the ages of 7-14, and it emphasizes personal improvement over the course of the season. Youth practiced twice per week, and they competed in seven Saturday meets in Longmeadow prior to the USATF meets.
Numerous adult and high school-age volunteers assisted in the youth track program. The outstanding shot put performances by Wray and Grant were made possible by coaching from Hans Despain, Longmeadow High School coach John Williams, Longmeadow High School track and field star Abbie Mokwuah, Eleanor Williams, J. Brendan Wood, and other high school coaches who contributed their time to the youth.
This fall, Longmeadow Parks and Recreation is offering, for the first time, a youth cross-country program that will be a continuation of the spring track program.
– Article and photos submitted by Alex Grant, Longmeadow youth track program coordinator.