Cost could keep some Flyers from nationals

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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.

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Jonathan Taylor, 8, rests against a fence at Lucy C. Laney Memorial Stadium.  Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Jonathan Taylor, 8, rests against a fence at Lucy C. Laney Memorial Stadium.

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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Junket831 07/08/10 - 07:07 am
Best wishes to this club and

Best wishes to this club and it's members. Stop looking to government for support. It is not the responsibility of the taxpayers to support this endeavor. Learn your own lesson. Hard work made you competitive. Now keep working on various fundraisers to keep the effort going. If you need more, then double your efforts. Relying on government funding is lazy and doesn't teach the kids that hard work and perserverance instill pride, competitiveness and in the long run, independence.

anotherlook 07/08/10 - 10:11 pm
Congratulations to you all!

Congratulations to you all! As a former runner and record holder from another state, I remember the sacrifices that my parents made to send me to the various competitions. Don't give up hope! If they haven't already, please have all those who plan to go to compete ask each of their places of worship and other social organizations such as sororities and fraternities to help them with this endeavor. Have you considered that some of the local radio stations may be willing to help if asked? You know there are a lot of individuals in our community that are wiling to support our young people. Depending on the circumstances, each of us may need a little help from time to time and it is no disgrace to ask for help when you need it and have done the best you can to help yourself. Good luck to you all!!!!

sjgraci 07/08/10 - 12:31 pm
Publicly funded grants are

Publicly funded grants are entirely appropriate for an organization like the Flyers. To suggest that these dedicated and hard working kids are "lazy" in any way is beyond shortsighted, it's cruel. These kids are already competing at a financial disadvantage compared to many other teams. It's sad state of the country when the best teams can not compete against lessor teams that have more money.

wildman 07/08/10 - 09:02 pm
I wish all these kids the

I wish all these kids the best but the government has no business paying for this. Fund raisers and hard work will take you a long way.

real_gman 07/09/10 - 12:21 am
Let's consider the economic

Let's consider the economic impact that Georgia AAU Athletics and the Augusta Flyers have had on the local ecomony - something that no one talks about. Because of the track club, there have been six (6) AAU Track and Field competions in Augusta since 2003. That's an average of 1500 athletes (plus parents, siblings, relatives, and coaches) per meet competing for 4 days each meet, staying in local hotels, eating in local restuarants, shopping in local stores. Figure out the total dollar amout, then multipy by 6. Can anyone tell me how many other similar local nonprofits can say that?

As a long time Augusta Flyers Track Club parent, I can say that we have never needed the government for anything, (and that remains true today). I suspect that Mr. Thompson provided many statements about the club, its history, fundraising, etc., which were taken and twisted to imply that we are looking for some type of government handout to pay for the trip to Virginia. But, that is typical of the way reporters report things (with a certain spin depending on what side of the fence they are on. Coach Thompson was merely calling to attention the challenges associated with providing the means for our young athletes to compete in various events. And yes, we believe in fundraising and hard work - that's how we do it. And, if anyone out there wants to be a sponsor of the Augusta Flyers Track Club now or in the future, we will welcome you with open arms. Our kids deserve it.

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