A local youth track team is returning to its familiar spot as a competitor in a national event this week.
The Augusta Flyers Track Club is sending 15 athletes between the ages of 10 and 14 to the AAU Junior Olympic Games, which will be held in Houston through Saturday in Humble, Texas.
The Flyers have qualified for the Junior Olympics in 19 of the past 20 years.
“There’s some diamonds in the rough here,” coach Charles Thompson said. “We’re looking to do good things when we compete out there.”
Considered one of the top competitors from the Flyers is Talaya Lewis, an 11-year-old from Windsor Spring Elementary who is competing in the 200- and 400-meter races, as well as the discus throw. Her strength is the 400-meter race, as her current time in the event is ranked first in Georgia and sixth in the nation for her age group.
“Hard work has taken me to nationals,” she said. “I feel like I’m ready. I’m continuing to work hard to prepare for it, and I have high expectations.”
Two other athletes who could be in the mix in their events are Jonathan Taylor and LaVaisiett Keller. Taylor, a 10-year-old from C.T. Walker Magnet, is competing in the triathlon, 800- and 1,500-meter races. His current time in the 1,500-meter race is ranked fifth in the state.
Keller is among the oldest in the club at 14 years old, and attends Langford Middle. She is competing in the pentathlon and 100-meter hurdles. Her pentathlon time is ranked sixth in the state.
Thompson said his girls could be considered the strength of the team. More girls are ranked higher in their current times in Georgia than the boys.
“You could say it’s a strength,” he said. “It’s an easy way for girls to get a scholarship, so it’s going to be a large percentage of girls who take advantage.”
The goal is for the top competitors on the team to finish within the top eight nationally in their events, Thompson said. For Lewis, Taylor and Keller, top five finishes are within reach.
“I’ve been doing this 21 years, and a lot of people don’t know we exist,” Thompson said. “But we have some talent here, and they’ll do their best to compete.”