MERRILLVILLE | The 17 athletes representing the Merrillville Track Club at the USA Track and Field National Championships starting Wednesday and running through July 31 at Morgan State University in Baltimore will see where they stand.
"Down there, they'll get experience and exposure," David Neville Jr. said.
"I came from Washington D.C., so when I moved on from my area (in track) it was a big jump for me," said Neville, who founded the club a decade ago and is the father of 2008 Olympics gold and bronze medalist David Neville III. "But if athletes are going to continue to run track in college, they need exposure to athletes outside of their state or district.
"In college, every meet is a national-level meet, and if kids can experience that type of competition at a younger age, it won't be such a shock for them. There's always going to be a period of adjustment, even now for kids going to their first large meet."
The MTC athletes qualified for the event by way of their Top 5 finishes at the USATF Region V Qualifier held July 5-8 at Franklin College.
First-place finishers Xavier Walker in the Youth Boys pentathlon and Kristen LaCosse in the Youth Girls pentathlon are part of the group.
"I think we have some athletes who have a good chance to place in the top eight (good enough for a medal)," MTC head coach Darrell Reed said.
Reed cites Walker and LaCosse as some athletes to watch, as well as multi-event athletes Jenna Jungels and Austin Jamerson, and the Youth Girls 400-yard relay team of Camille Reed, Grace Bollinger, Jungels and LaCosse.
"The most we've ever sent to a national event was 35," Reed said. "Our numbers were up then. This year, we've sent a bigger percentage of athletes down.
"It takes a three-fold partnership (parent, athlete, coach) to make a season a successful one, and you know you're going in the fight direction when the athletes personal records continue to improve throughout the season."
Club alum Neville III didn't have the same success at this summer's Olympic trials.
"Things didn't turn out so well," the elder Neville said of his son's attempt to return to the Olympics in the 400-meter run and 1,600 relay at the trials in Eugene, Ore. "He was still having problems with his Achille's heel. He was able to make it (to the latter rounds), but he came up short."