With their 30th year around the corner, the Penn Hills Eagles Track Club had a handful of athletes in the USATF National Junior Olympic Championships on July 22-28 at California State University-Sacramento.
Though the Eagles had more than a dozen athletes qualify for the meet, only three participated because of financial considerations.
In her second appearance at nationals, Christen Van Wyk finished 18th in the women’s 17-18 javelin with a mark of 31.26 meters. Van Wyk finished 30th in the hammer with a throw of 16.33.
In their first trip, Miles Piersaint took 18th in the men’s 11-12 shot put with a toss of 10.49, and Jesse Van Wyk was 22nd in the men’s 13-14 javelin (35.15).
“We had an exceptional group of kids this year. It was a diverse group of kids, and they got along with each other,” coach Chuck Carter said. “They paid attention, they were able to comprehend all of the drills and they got stronger every meet. They got better in their skill positions.”
Because Carter gets an opportunity to travel to nationals every year, he decided to send his throwing coach, John Bay, in his place to get the experience and provide advice to his throwers.
The other male athletes who qualified for nationals included Roderick Armstrong (13-14), Antonio Pitts (15-16), Moses Mitchell (7-8), Jeremiah Davis (7-8), Demetrius Broadnax (13-14), Tymere Alston (11-12), Jamal Van Irvin (13-14), Brett White (15-16) and Jermaine Taylor (13-14).
The other female athletes who qualified for nationals included Alexis Phillips (15-16), Julianna Daugherty (13-14), Ry’Nique Durham (17-18), Chloe Moore (7-8), Ariyana Van Irvin (9-10), Jamyla Davis (11-12), Lenna Birchard (11-12), Anika Van Wyk (11-12), Lenna Birchard (11-12), Kali Holmes (11-12), Lanyla Davis (11-12) and Damiana Hopkins (13-14).
In recent months, Carter and his wife, Becci, have worked to get their program labeled with the IRS’ 501(c)(3) designation as a nonprofit in hopes of providing a better experience for the athletes in the program, including access to tutors for academics.
“With the 501(c)(3), we can not only get better equipment, we can introduce some of our top athletes to invitational meets as well as getting the whole team to the national meets as well as their positional coaches,” Carter said.
As they approach their 30th year, the Eagles look to be running like a well-oiled machine. They have been developing their sub-bantam and bantam divisions and only have a handful of athletes leaving the program because of graduation.
“We develop what is within ourselves. We have been blessed that the kids are developing. It’s a disciple and learning process when you first start. When you have 6, 7 or 8-year-olds and you don’t keep them focused for five minutes, the kids think it’s a playground,” Carter said.
“We have fun, but we teach mechanics, the rules and regulations of track and field. Some kids you might think they don’t have the raw talent but we can see their turnovers and their ability gets better every year they come back.”
Carter believes participating in track and field can lead to other athletic opportunities if an athlete doesn’t excel on the track.
“I feel like you have to introduce track and field because it leads to other sports like soccer, football, basketball. We have jumps, we have hurdles, we have speed, we have distance,” Carter said.
“Whenever they go into their other sports, they are accelerating more than a kid who just comes out for a sport. They come in learn. They come in focused. They are used to being around crowds.”