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Stars aim high at Junior Olympics

The Suffolk Stars Track Club opens its season in March with its sights set on the AAU Junior Olympic Games every year.

The same emphasis and long hours of hard work go into having as many of the Stars as possible qualify for the national meet. In 2009, a big group of Stars made it to the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Detroit.

It’s just a coincidence, but a special one, that with this summer’s AAU Junior Olympic Games being hosted by Hampton Roads, with the track and field competition hosted at Norfolk State University’s Dick Price Stadium, the Stars and head coach Greg Rountree are sending their largest team ever, 25 kids, to the Junior Olympic Games.

“It’s big because the kids get to run versus kids from all over the country. We look forward to the Junior Olympics because it’s the best chance of the season to find out exactly where you stand,” Rountree said.

“From 5 years old to 18, year after year, you compete against many of the same athletes,” Rountree said. “And you find that you make friends with the competitors you see through the years.”

Some, Rountree says about 15, of the Stars are returning vets to the biggest AAU stage for junior track and field athletes. That leaves a lot who qualified for the first time this season.

It’s an even sweeter accomplishment for the team as a whole since the club’s grown a lot in the past couple years. Even the kids new to the sport are earning major successes.

“New kids hear about it from a friend. Sometimes we’ve had a kid bring in their medals for show and tell and then we get two or three friends who want to join,” Rountree said.

The AAU track season starts in March and, in the case of the Stars, they’ve taken part in about 10 meets.

“It’s pretty much the same schedule every year. We run a number of local meets and we try to go out to different areas, to meets in North Carolina, Maryland, we went to a meet in Florida earlier this year,” Rountree said.

Especially with the younger or new recruits, the early part of the season is spent allowing the kids to try many events to see the ones they’re best at or like the most. It’s a good way to get kids hooked on the sport in general, but it also helps the team as a whole. The Stars have Junior Olympic qualifiers in a wide range of events.

“Everyone likes running the 100 (meter dash) and the 200, because it’s quick and, at least they think, it’s the easiest,” Rountree said, “but if you can have kids go into the hurdle events, the long jump, triple jump, the racewalk events, it’s possible those events could be ones that take them onto high school or college teams and beyond.”

Nine (Mykaylyn Davis, Rebecca Kluck, Jordan Stokley, Ryan Kluck, Deonte Demiel, Andrew Gould, Gregory Rountree and Mark Kluck) of the 25 Stars in the Games will be competing in three of more events.

Kiera Rountree in the shot put, Jaquan Demiel in the 110-meter hurdles and 400 hurdles, and Andrew Gould in the 400 are looking to build on their AAU state championships.

The AAU Junior Olympic Games start on July 29 at venues in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News. The track and field event starts Aug. 2.