Cost could keep some Flyers from nationals

Seven Augusta Flyers Track Club athletes earned spots in the AAU Track and Field National Championships during June's qualifying at Laney High School. But the chance to compete in one of the nation's top junior track meets might not be available for all who qualified.

Because of a decrease in club funding, some of the Flyers' qualifiers might be left behind when the team travels to Hampton, Va., for the meet later this month.

"It's really hard when there are kids that work so hard and aren't able to go," said Augusta Flyers head coach Charles Thompson. "It's such a great opportunity for them to travel, meet college coaches and visit college campuses. When they can't make it, it's a shame."

A recent decrease in registration has been a major factor in the club's financial struggles of late, Thompson said.

Over the past three years, the Flyers' have seen nearly a 40 percent drop in membership, which Thompson attributes to local indifference toward track and field as much as the struggling economy.

"A lot of the ones that come out are young, and there seems to be a lack of interest from them. They don't stay with us long," Thompson said. "Plus it's summertime. Training for track and field is pretty hard right now."

The organization has tried putting on fundraisers to help foot the bill for some of the bigger events, but those functions have only had marginal success.

"What we really need is a sponsor," said Flyers fundraising chairperson Jacqueline Majors. "You see other AAU clubs that have one and they're not in the position that we are now."

Thompson, who has been with the club since it was created in 1991, said the Flyers were in a similar situation a decade ago, when 10 members qualified for nationals but only two were able to make the trip.

"That was tough," he said. "You hate it because these kids work so hard all year long only to get held back because of money."

Thompson said he would like to see more support from local government officials. He still has the receipt from the last time the club received money from the city: a $2,508 grant given in 1997.

The Augusta Flyers members who qualified include: Jonathan Taylor (800 meters), Cianah Reid (long jump), Alana Gould (800 and 4x400-meter relay), Marcus Williamson (800 and 400), Jocelyn Hartshorn (4x400 relay), LaVaisiette Keller (4x400 relay, pentathlon and long jump) and Alysia Rouse (discus and 4x400 relay), who is taking the place of injured Aniyah Collatt in the relay.

Others Flyers members will attempt to qualify one final time at a meet in Orlando, Fla., on Monday. Because it is not an official club event, competitors must cover expenses and fees out of pocket.

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