Stars eye regionals, nationals
Sunday, June 22, 2008
By Zach Caruso

The South Jersey Rising Stars track team has its eye on the prize; the AAU Junior Olympics.

These kids have been working hard, and are dedicated to making it to Nationals, said Rising Stars head coach Eddie Johns.


And their path to get there is far from easy.

The season began with five developmental meets where the Rising Stars faced teams from the Philadelphia area, as well as central New Jersey. From here, the team moved on to the district meet in which they faced between 20 and 30 clubs from the tri-state area.

The top eight competitors from districts go on to the regionals, which are being held in Philadelphia this year at Northeast High School. From there, the top four athletes will then be eligible to compete in the AAU Junior Olympics.

The returning athletes from last year who didn't make it to nationals came back this year determined, said Field Coach Monique Brown. It's really great because these kids accomplish things they never thought they could do, and they don't realize the experience they are getting along the way.

In fact, 15 year old third-year veteran Diontai Austin credits his progress so far this season to sheer work ethic.

I practice hard with my coaches and I'm always trying my best, Austin said. I work hard every day.

Johns feels that returning athletes such as Austin help the fresh faces of new competitors have a tangible objective.

The older veterans come in with that goal of going to Nationals already, said Johns. The senior athletes know what it takes to advance, and so they teach the younger kids what it takes. It's like one big family, everybody helps each other.

And with regionals coming up in only two weeks, Johns feels confident in his team.

There are about nine or 10 athletes that have a good shot at advancing, said Johns. I know anything can happen, but I feel good about their chances.