Track-and-field participants qualify for AAU games at Norfolk State University in Virginia
By Dan McWilliams
Sacred Heart Cathedral School will be well-represented at the AAU Junior Olympics this month at Norfolk State University in Virginia.
Six track-and-field athletes from SHCS qualified for the Aug. 1-8 nationals through district and regional competitions held at Knoxville’s Hardin Valley Academy, where the youths also have been practicing hard since the end of school in May.
The athletes compete for Knoxville Youth Athletics’ competitive track team.
Ellie Wolski and younger sister Lizzie, Riley Smith and younger brother Keegan, Callie Tucker, and Eleanor Mancini made the Junior Olympics. Callie’s younger brother, Chase, made the regionals in his events.
“There are two goals and objectives: to compete in basically three meets,” said Deacon Sean Smith, father of Riley and Keegan.
“One is the district qualifier, and the top 16 in the district qualifier go to the regional qualifier, which is the qualifying meet for the Junior Olympics. And then there’s the Junior Olympics. So these athletes train for two straight months solely to try to make it to the Junior Olympics.
The other goal and objective is, each of those meets you improve your personal record.
“I think we had a hundred and some-odd people on the competitive team, and 40 of our competitive team members qualified for the Junior Olympics.”
The top six athletes in each event in the regionals made the Junior Olympics. The regionals drew competitors from as far away as Birmingham, Mobile, Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville.
Ellie Wolski is going to the Junior Olympics in the 14-and-under pentathlon and the 800-meter run.
This is the eighth-grader’s second straight nationals appearance.
“Last year the experience really helped for my last nationals, and I was really trying a lot of new events this year, so I had to learn a lot of new techniques rather than just hard work and running,” she said.
“I’m really glad that I was able to make it.”
Lizzie Wolksi is entering second grade and will compete in the nationals in the 8-and-under 800 and 1,500 runs.
The Wolksis’ mom, Kathy, is the SHCS track coach and a champion long-distance runner herself.
“There’s track and field in that family’s blood,” Deacon Smith said.
Riley Smith, a seventh-grader, will run in the 13-and-under 1,500 and 3,200 relay at the Junior Olympics.
“This is my first year running,” he said. “We practice five days a week—a lot of running.”
Riley enjoys the long-distance events he’s entered in.
“It takes a lot of training, but you get pretty good at it,” he said. “You need endurance and speed, too.”
Keegan Smith, a third-grader, made the nationals in the 9-and-under 800 and 1,500 runs. He won the regional in the 1,500.
Callie Tucker, an eighth-grader, is headed for the Junior Olympics in the 13-and-under 800 and 1,500 runs and in the 3,200 relay.
“It’s a big honor. I’m very lucky to make it,” she said.
Eleanor, also an eighth-grader, reached the Junior Olympics in the 100 and 200 hurdles and in the long jump for ages 13-14.
“It’s pretty cool that you have all these folks making it from the same school,” Deacon Smith said.
Chase Tucker made the regionals in the 100 and 200 dash events.