The Zion Hill Rd. Running Club is sending a record number of qualifiers to the AAU Junior Olympics, after competing in the Region 19 National Qualifier Meet in Converse.
The track club in Seguin, which was established in 2014, had 18 athletes qualify, by far the club’s best season since its inception, head coach David Cardenas said.
“We were blown away by their performance,” he said. “Each kid ran personal records to get there. It comes from the hard work of coaches, parents and the athletes — all believing that we can achieve something great. I can’t take credit for what happened. To have them achieve what they achieved is beyond me.”
Last year was the previous record for the club, when they had six athletes qualify.
The club began practicing three to four days a week in February, Cardenas said.
“The kids worked so hard day in and day out,” he said. “Sometimes we are out there until 9 o’clock at night, working and encouraging them.”
Qualifying for the AAU Junior Olympics, scheduled for Aug. 1 to 3 in Greensboro, North Carolina, were 10 athletes in individual events. Those who qualified include: Avery Franklin, 8 year old boys 100m; Kamren Ovalis, 8-year-old boys 1,500m; Brodie Zoeller, 10-year-old boys turbo javelin; Aaliyah Gonzales, 10-year-old girls 1,500; Audrina Pacheco, 11-year-old girls 400m and girls long jump; Nikko Monita, 15- year-old girls 1,500m and 3,000m; Prince Modrano, 12-year-old boys 1,500 and 3,000m; Sammy Bode, 12- year-old boys 1,500m; Jayden Acuna, 13-year-old boys 400m; and Xavier Padron, 13-year-old boys 1,500m.
Pacheco earned second in the long jump; Franklin won second in the 100 meters; Zoeller come in second in the turbo javelin and Medrano brought home third in the 3,000 meters.
A pair of boys 4X800 relay teams qualified — the 11-12 year olds, and the 13-14 year olds — as well as the girls 13-14 4X800.
Members of the teams include 11-12 year old boys, Bode, Medrano, Brandon Hernandez and Chris Ramirez; 13-14 year old boys, Padron, Acuna, Carlos Garza and Garrett Machado; and the girls 13-14 relay team consists of Alexis Cantu, Madalyn Marquez, Mia Marquez and Madison Cardenas.
The group is a newly formed non-profit and is working on raising funds to help pay for the trip to Greensboro with a BBQ fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 13 at Cash America Pawn in Seguin.
“That’s why we are asking for some help from the community,” Cardenas said. “Our goal through the non-profit is to not only get them there, but pay for them to get there. As a youth myself, I had to give up a spot at nationals because we couldn’t financially do it, so I never want that to be an issue with an athlete. You earned that right to go to nationals, our goal as a non-profit is to get that athlete there.
He estimated that it would take a little more than $10,000 to get all the kids there. Cardenas said that every penny of the donations would go to the athletes so they can experience the Junior Olympics.
“We’re not only teaching them about track, but also giving them life skills to help them be positive influences in their community,” Cardenas said.
Those wishing to help can call 830-357-6675, message them on Facebook at Zion Hill Rd. Running Club page, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Duke is the sports editor for the Seguin Gazette. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com