MERRILLVILLE | With a roster of 19 athletes ranging in age from 10 to 18, Merrillville Track Club coach Darrell Reed will certainly have his hands full this week at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Wichita.
Fortunately for Reed, four of his 10 coaches will be making the trip to Kansas for the six-day competition which begins on Tuesday.
Reed is expecting big things from his club, the least of which is making sure everyone gets to every event on time.
"It certainly takes a village at an event like this," Reed said. "The summer is really tough because you're dealing with almost three different types of schedules."
The first of which comes with the middle school kids such as 10-year-old Nigel Taylor. The Merrillville native will be competing in his third straight Junior Olympic event and placed 12th in the 200-meter dash last year.
"We keep changing our goals for Nigel," Reed said. "Last year we wanted him to get in the top 10. Now this season, we're hoping that he can get top eight and get on the medal stand."
After Taylor comes athletes such as 13-year-old Camille Reed. In addition to being the coach's daughter, Camille has several seasons of middle school competition under her belt. The stricter practice schedules will prepare her better for the event, and she is expected to compete for a medal in the 3,200-meter relay alongside teammates Kristen LaCosse (Rensselaer), Leah Sink (Chesterton) and Brigette Banser (Crown Point).
"The kids in middle school have had a seven-week schedule so far, so we start training them different than everyone else," Reed said. "The 10-year-olds can't really compete in a middle school season, and then you're working with everyone's schedules during the summer. It takes a big commitment."
The final group of athletes that will be competing this week consist of high school athletes like Merrillville's Austin Jamerson. Jamerson is expected to compete for a medal in the high jump and as one of the older members of the team; the 16-year-old will be counted on for leadership as well as the coaches.
"This is such a big meet, but again, the summer is tough because you can't necessarily discount someone's vacation," Reed said. "We make sure all the coaches are in place, and that the parents are able to see their kids perform."