Young athletes thrive in RADL track team

Published 12:34 am Thursday, May 22, 2008

NATCHEZ — Looking at him you may not be able to tell, but Ramonte Jackson is a 16-time All-American; and he’s only 10.

Ramonte, along with 29 other young athletes, belong to the RADL (Raising an Alliance of Discerning Leaders) Track Club.

RADL is comprised of kids from age six through 19 from six Mississippi counties Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Wilkinson, Lawrence and Pike, as well as Concordia Parish and has been around since 2004.

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According to coach Eddie Ray Jackson, every time you finish in the top 20 in an event you’re considered an All-American. When trying to account for all of his son’s accomplishments, Ramonte hollered back with a proud smirk, “Couldn’t count them all.”

Ramonte, who started training when he was 6, is not the only member of the team who has earned accomplishments and national recognition.

Antoine Guice, of Franklin County, is an All-American in high school who recently placed third in the 400-meters at a meet at the University of Houston.

Among those who have gone on to compete in college are Will Coppage (LSU), Bernardo Henry (McNeese State), Jasmine Anderson (UL-Lafayette), Ashley Charles (Southwest Mississippi Community College), Jeremy Hargrave (Hinds Community College) and Tiffany Nall (Nicholls State).

For many of the team’s current members, transportation is an issue they have a hard time dealing with. Ramonte and his father, for instance, travel from Ferriday to practice at the Natchez High track.

“They do have a track, but it’s not fit to run on,” Eddie Ray said of his local track. “It’s like running on the highway.”

Eddie Ray said that the Concordia Recreation District 1 provides them with a school bus to help them commute to and from meets. While it helps to have a bus to borrow, they still must find drivers to take them from point A to point B.

Understanding that times are tough financially for a lot of people, Eddie Ray said, “We’re looking for a few bus drivers with good hearts.”

During the outdoor season, RADL plans to travel to matches throughout the state of Louisiana, as well as the AAU Club Championships at Disney World. If his kids qualify in the SAAU Region 9-B Meet in Hammond, La., they’ll have the opportunity to travel to Detroit to compete in the AAU Junior Olympic Games.

“We give kids a chance to see places they wouldn’t normally see,” Eddie Ray said.

Although it does not cost much to participate on the track team, there are several miniscule fees participants pay. Aside from being a member of the team, which Eddie Ray says is free, the members need to pay $14 for an AAU card, $5-$10 for food and gas, and about $8 to participate in most meets.

If anyone would like to make a donation, they can mail their donation to RADL Track Club, P.O. Box 17741, Natzhez Miss., 39122.