Local track club runs away from competition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Track and field rarely gets the attention of sports like baseball or football on the local level, but a group of local kids are gaining respect for their abilities in track and field at the national level.

Last weekend 27 members of the

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track club, piled onto a bus to compete against over 3,000 children from around the country at the Amateur Athletic Union Club Championships in Orlando, Fla.

When the dust settled and the times were tallied, the RADL club won 22 medals and boasted of two national champions. But all that almost didn&8217;t happen.

&8220;We didn&8217;t know how we were going to get there,&8221; RADL club coach Eddie Ray Jackson said. &8220;We were very fortunate that the Ferriday recreational department helped out and funded getting us a bus so that all of the kids that qualified could make it.&8221;

Eight-year-old Ramonte Jackson of Vidalia, was one of the club&8217;s star performers as he broke the national record for his age group with a long jump of 13 feet and four inches, besting the nearest competitor by over a foot.

&8220;I was thinking before the jump, I&8217;m going to break the record,&8221; Jackson said.

Jackson has been running track and field and training in various events since he was 3-years-old. Much of that is because of his father Eddie Ray Jackson, was a multi-sport athlete and wanted his son to explore a variety of sports in order to find out which ones he liked.Milton Griffin, also impressed, as he set the national record for his age group and won the gold medal in the high jump with a leap of five feet and 10 inches.

Griffin shares the same goal as most of the RADL track club members, they love to compete, but it is more about having fun.

&8220;I just love to run and jump,&8221; said Griffin. &8220;I hope to one day go to college and maybe this is a way I can earn a scholarship.&8221;

With all the success the club has been having, it is hard to believe that the club would be facing any challenges in getting the opportunity to compete, but they are.

&8220;Right now funding is a big issue for us,&8221; coach Jackson said. &8220;I have 21 kids who have qualified to make it to the Junior Olympics in Norfolk, Virginia. We are currently looking at only taking 11.&8221;

None of the kids wants to be left out, but without the money to go, it will inevitably happen.

&8220;I don&8217;t know what I&8217;ll think if I don&8217;t get to go,&8221; said Griffin. &8220;I would be mad. This is something I really love doing, and if I couldn&8217;t go it would be really hard.&8221;

Coach Jackson said that anyone who would like to help the club with expenses to send their donation to RADL track club, P.O. Box 17741, Natchez, Mississippi 39122.