The Palmetto Track and Field Club doesn't get to start practice as early as some of the other programs around the state, they also don't have as much funding, but the one thing not lacking from the organization is talent.
Despite the obstacles facing the club, the program has managed to have strong performers compete at the highest levels of the USATF Junior Olympics, and this year is no different. A total of ten members of the organization performed well enough at the S.C. Association meet to qualify for the USATF Region IV Junior Olympic meet to be held next weekend in Winter Park, Fla.
Only two members, Kiera Wisdom and Josh Cady, will be making the trip to participate at the meet. Wisdom will compete in the 1500m for the Bantom division (ages 9-10) group and Cady – who missed last weeks qualifying event but received an exemption to compete at regionals – in the pole vault for the Young Men division (ages 17-18). The two will be vying for a berth in the Championships to be held in Greensboro, N.C. July 22-28.
The success of the athletes is even more impressive considering the challenges that face the club. The main one pointed out by one of the coaches is the late start to practice. Some of the states other top programs get underway much earlier, the Mt. Pleasant Track Club starts in January and the Summerville Storm in March. Palmetto, however, has to wait until June, a few weeks prior to the state meet.
“It's hard to have a program when you cant get on the track until June 1,” said Jack Gilmore, coach and treasurer of the club. “It's especially difficult for the middle school kids who don't have a track season during the school year to be working. We still manage to produce some good athletes though.”
Gilmore also pointed out that the travel requirement is sometimes inconvenient for some of the athletes preventing some qualifiers from competing in the regionals.
He does however have high hopes for the two who will be making the trip.
“Josh was the best pole vaulter at South Aiken this season, I think he has a good chance of doing well at the meet,” Gilmore said.
The top five in each event qualify for the National meet at North Carolina A&T University. The club has had a history of sending athletes to Nationals. Gilmore mentioned decathlete Trey Blanton as one of the success stories of the program.
Blanton made it to nationals in 2005 at the intermediate boys level and later went on to get a scholarship at Wake Forest University.
Those are the kind of stories Gilmore finds rewarding about the time spent working with the program.
Gilmore is hoping to get more coaches and parents involved in the organization as well as increase the number of athletes in the club.
“It's a struggle sometime but it's very rewarding to see young athletes succeed. The teaching and coaching aspect of it is great,” Gilmore said. “I hope to get more involvement in the upcoming years to keep the program going strong.”
Some Aiken representatives also performed well in the AAU National qualifiers held over the weekend. Wisdom and Cady were amont ghose who made the cut for the National AAU Junior Olympics to be held in Michigan.
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.
USATF Regional qualifiersEliza King (Age 8) 400m 1:26.9 (8th) 800m 3:11.8 (5th)Keira Wisdom (9-10) 1500m 6:14.5 (5th)Sophie King (13-14) 800m 2:39.6 (6th) 1500m 5:32.5 (4th)Jessa Potvin (15-16) 800m 2:32.1 (4th) 1500m 5:06.9 (1st) 3000m 11:21.6 (2nd)Jovan Cardoso (17-18) discus 110 7 (3rd) shot put 29 1 (4th) hammer 129 9 (1st)Eduardo Barquet (13-14) 3000m 11:16.9 (8th)John Potvin (13-14) 800m 2:25.6 (3rd) 1500m 4:51.7 (2nd) 3000m 10:40.9 (3rd)David McKeel (15-16) 1500m 5:01.1 (4th) 3000m 10:43 (2nd)Steven Sheets (15-16) pole vault 11 11 (1st)Kendall Haley (17-18) 1500m 4:56.6 (5th)AAU National qualifiersKeira Wisdom (Age 9) 1500m 6:21 (2nd) 800m 3:13 (4th) Emma Poteat (10) 800m 3:29 (1st) 1500m 6:45 (1st)Andrea Soto (11) 800m 3:09 (3rd) 1500m 6:23 (1st) 3000m 16:33(1st) Jessa Potvin (15-16) 800m 2:31 (1st) 1500m 5:04 (1st) 3000m 11:21 (1st) Eduardo Barquet (13) 800m 2:26 (2nd) 1500m 5:13 (1st) Alex McKeel (13) 3000m 11:28 (1st) 1500m 5:15 (2nd) John Potvin (14) 800m 219 (2nd) 1500m 4:57 (1st) 3000m 11:17 (1st) Adam McFall (17-18) 1500m 4:32 (2nd) 3000m 10:06 (1st) Josh Cady (17-18) Pole Vault 12 ' (1st)