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Track heads to Olympics

NATCHEZ — When Eddie Ray Gibson started training his sons in 2002, he had no clue that a workout for two would turn into a group of 19 AAU Junior Olympic-qualifying athletes.

Gibson started the Raising an Alliance of Discerning Leaders (RADL) track team after children saw him working out his two sons and asked to train with him.

His team has grown, and it now features children from Natchez, Vidalia, Ferriday, Franklin County and Jefferson County.

Gibson said he is proud of what his team has accomplished so far this summer.

“We went to LSU for the 2013 Governor’s Games, and we competed against some of the best talent in the South,” Gibson said. “As a whole, we did really well.”

But that wasn’t the real test for RADL, they still had to compete in the Area 10 National Qualifier

Track and Field Events

at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans.

In one of RADL’s strongest events, the boys’ 4×100-meter relay race, their third leg was unable to run. Darius Jackson had to step up and compete in an event he never trained for. Though the changeup left some worried, it may have turned out for the best as the relay team recorded their best time to date at 46.3 seconds.

Qualifying for the 2013 AAU Junior Olympic Games meet in Detroit is their main goal every summer, and Gibson said 19 of his 24 athletes made the cut.

But unfortunately, he said, only 13 will be able to go when they depart for Detroit on July 23.

“Some just didn’t have the funds to go to Detroit, but we hope next year we’ll do more fundraisers earlier to raise the money,” Gibson aid.

With the help of local sponsors like the Delta Bank, Performance Dodge of Ferriday, Budget Build Lumber and Supply and the Ferriday Recreational Department District 1, 13 runners will be able to attend Detroit for a week of intense competition.

Gibson said he expects Tariq Jackson, Ramante Jackson, Jada Hunt and Rachael Shelby to perform well in the tourney.

“I expect Tariq to win the 100- and 200-meter dash in his division, Ramante to do well in the triple jump as he just set a personal best record of 43 feet, 6 inches, Jada has a good chance in the 200-meter dash and the long jump and Rachael will do well in the hurdles event.”

Tariq Jackson said he feels prepared for the tournament and to exceed Gibson’s expectations.

“I’ve been working hard at practice, and I’ve been coming in first place a lot,” Jackson said. “I work hard because I know nothing comes easy.”

When it comes to the 4×100-relay, Jackson said he still has to adapt to the third-leg changeup as he is the anchor leg, but as long a they give it their all they’ll be in good shape.

“We just have to keep on pushing and never stop,” Jackson said. “I’m going to come out relaxed on the curve and on the straight away, I’ll just go for it.”

Hunt said she has a lot more confidence in herself this year.

“I’ve been doing better this year because I worked harder, and I go to practice everyday,” Hunt said.

She said practice will help her and her teammates succeed in the Junior Olympic Games.

“Practice is hard, but I keep working and I fight through the pain,” Hunt said. “Practice taught me not to give up when I’m losing.”