ShareThis Page

Greensburg YMCA track athletes compete at national championships

| Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, 10:00 a.m.
Representing the Greensburg YMCA at the Junior Olympic national competition were, in front, from left, Chad Kaylor, Malia Anderson, Kelley Giles and Jake Kaylor. In back are Cassidy Shepard, Julia Howard, Jasmine Jones and Tori Mayo. Ally Leasure also qualified but is not pictured. Submitted

With all eyes on the Olympics the past several weeks, the American public witnessed great feats from some of the world's best athletes.

It's easy to forget how early the best of those athletes began training.

Late last month, the Greensburg YMCA Youth Track and Field Club was represented by nine of its top athletes at the Junior Olympics National Championships in Baltimore, Md. and for some their early start in athletics could lead to a long and decorated career.

In order to qualify for nationals, the athletes must place in the top six locally to qualify for a regional meet. Once there, they must place in the top five to advance to nationals.

“We had some outstanding performances from our athletes,” head coach Jeff Mayo said. “We run our practice on a volunteer basis. I tell the kids and the parents from the very beginning that you get as much out of this program as you put into it. Everybody that comes to the practices is coming because they want to be there and they want to get better.”

The extra work paid off for the nine athletes who traveled to Morgan State University last month — Malia Anderson (Greensburg Salem Middle School), 800-meter run; Kelley Giles (Norwin Middle School), 3,000-meter run; Julia Howard (Greensburg Salem High School), long jump, 100 hurdles, pentathlon; Jasmine Jones (Hempfield High School), 100, 200, 400; Chad Kaylor (Greensburg Salem Middle School), javelin; Jake Kaylor (Greensburg Salem High School), 110 hurdles; Tori Mayo (Hempfield High School), javelin; and Cassidy Sheppard (Greensburg Salem High School), pole vault.

Howard placed eighth in the youth division (ages 13-14) in the long jump. She also placed eighth in the high jump in 2010 in Sacramento, Calif.

“She far exceeded her best at the national,” Mayo said. “I was not expecting her to place in that event. I was pleasantly surprised. We were very happy; it just shows she was born a competitor.”

Howard, who was originally a gymnast, joined the program two years ago and benefits in many events from her hard work and flexibility.

“Her gymnastic background really helped her once we could get her to stop holding her hands perfectly straight,” Mayo said. “Julia is a really classy girl. She's a hard worker. She takes it upon herself to do extra work. We have practice in the evening and she takes it upon herself to practice twice a day to work on all the events because she does the pentathlon.”

Like Howard, about 80 youths showed up for the summer track program ready to train. The ages vary from 5 to 18, with middle school being the dominant age group.

“We have kids in high school, but it seems that when they get to high school they also do indoor seasons and they seem to get pretty tired,” Mayo said. “By then a lot of them start to work too so they seem to fall off at the older ages with us.”

However, by starting young, Mayo and his coaching staff have been able to give their athletes an edge for their high school career. Mayo said Westmoreland County track programs have flourished over the years due to the increase of track clubs.

“Coaching is the difference,” Mayo said. “We are able to get these kids when they are young and teach them how to long jump, high jump and teach them how to come out of the box and work for sprints. Just to get them some experience so that when they go to do track at the middle school they have more experience than the kids that haven't done track.

“I really see a big difference.”

Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.