Girls head to AAU Jr. Olympics
Suffolk’s Alexis Banks and Jazmine Tilmon are only 12 years old, but they have already made a habit of qualifying for the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games in track and field.
This year, they are part the AAU Virginia Elite Team that began its journey to Ypsilanti, Mich., on Saturday for the Junior Olympics track and field competition, which begins on Monday.
Alexis and Jazmine will compete in the 100-meter dash, the 4×100-meter relay and the long jump.
Alexis, who started with track when she was 4, said that her parents, Everett and Darla Banks, initiated things.
“My sister started before I did, and they wanted me to try running, so they put me in there,” she said.
Darla Banks said Alexis officially began competing when she was 6, and her whole family has been supportive.
“We’re just proud of her because she’s a go-getter on and off the track,” she said.
Jazmine Tilmon said she has personally been helped to reach this level of success early by someone close to her.
“My dad really, really, really inspired me on this,” she said.
Both Tony and Tanya Tilmon have coached their daughter in track, but Tanya noted her husband’s influence on Jazmine.
“He does a lot of training with her,” she said.
Father and daughter pore over videos of her meets to see what she can improve, and he has purchased equipment to help her train.
“Since her first year, starting out, she’s been making a drastic improvement each year that she’s stepped out on the track,” Tony Tilmon said.
Darla Banks said Alexis has had a familial assist to success, as well.
“My family has always been into sports, whether it be basketball or track,” she said.
“A lot of it is natural ability, and then with the proper training they have been able to step it up and get to that next level,” she said.
Alexis said she enjoys the challenge of track and has become a qualifier for the Junior Olympics so early “by practicing hard and training hard and coaches motivating me to do my best.”
Jazmine reveals the level of her own ambition when she says that a reason why she enjoys track is that she wants a full ride to college.
She said she is looking forward to the Junior Olympics because she wants to win.
“I’m still trying to make it to the top,” she said.
With a proper diet and intense training, her efforts are clearly in place.
“As she gets older, I want to her to be able to run with some of the best athletes here in the seven cities or in Virginia,” Tony Tilmon said.
He would love to see her bring home a state championship in high school and like she mentioned, get a scholarship to go to college.
Alexis admitted that she gets nervous at the big national-level events, but she has a method for settling down.
“I usually pray, and I just ask God to help me through,” she said.
Both girls punched their ticket to Michigan this year when they placed in the top five in their events during the AAU Area 4 Junior Olympic National Qualifier at Nansemond River High School at the end of June.
Each girl has qualified to go every year that they have been competing. For Alexis, this has been six years in a row, and for Jazmine, four consecutive years.