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NHS athletes gear up for track meet

NATCHEZ — Natchez High School will be well represented this weekend, as it hosts its first Junior Olympic qualifying meet in more than 10 years.

At least four Natchez High School track members will participate in the event, and Natchez track coach Larry Wesley said he expects his athletes to do well in this big event.

“This is the first year (most of them) are doing Junior Olympics,” Wesley said. “I think they like the challenge. That’s what track is about. And I think they will see how fun it can be.”

Upcoming senior Amos James was one of Natchez’s top performers this spring, and he expects to do well this weekend in his first Junior Olympic appearance against some of the top runners from Louisiana and Mississippi.

“My coaches asked me to do (the event), and I wanted to do it,” he said.

James will compete in the hurdles, triple jump and relay. He said he is strong in each event.

“I want to do my best in all of them,” he said. “It’s a very big event. I just want to train hard and compete.”

Wesley said he expects James to advance to the next qualifying stage in Tennessee in at least one of his events.

Shanika Pernell is another athlete that Wesley believes can make a splash at the qualifying event this weekend.

“She’s kind of a late bloomer,” he said. “Since the season was over, she didn’t work as much as most, but on talent alone she should be able to make it to the next round.”

Pernell will compete in the open 200-meter, open 400-meter, 800-meter and mile relay, she said.

“I just want to practice hard this week, so I can go on to the next round,” she said.

Pernell, an upcoming 10th grader, said she also made it to state in a couple of events in the spring, and she is using summer track to prepare her for a bigger role on the Natchez track team this fall.

Fourteen-year-old Ernesha Chatman will also represent the Bulldogs this weekend.

Chatman will be a freshman for Natchez next season, and she said last year was her first experience running track.

“I’m just trying to stay in shape,” she said. “I started in eighth grade.”

Chatman said she has big aspirations for her track career at Natchez.

“I want to break some records by the time I’m a senior,” she said.

Chatman said her goal is to qualify for the next round this weekend in either the 200-meter, 100-meter or long jump.

Wesley said the Junior Olympics would be a great experience in Chatman’s young career.

“She is still trying to find herself,” Wesley said. “At the age group she runs with it will be a good challenge for her, and she will get an eye opening.”

Wesley said local track coach Eddie Ray Jackson works with the athletes during the summer, and Jackson’s son Ramonte will also participate this weekend.

Wesley said this weekend’s event is the first step for his athletes in reaching the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Junior Olympics.

“The further they go the more national recognition they get,” Wesley said. “I mean you have the Olympics and then you have the Junior Olympics, and it’s all about finding out who’s going to be the next big star.”

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