Area runners shine for local track club

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 14, 2017

For nearly two decades, Eddie Ray Jackson has been providing kids in the Miss-Lou an avenue to pursue their track and field aspirations.

Since 2001, Jackson has headed the Raising an Alliance of Discerning Leaders, a local track club that competes on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit.

“This is what I love, this is my passion,” he said. “This is what God put me in place to do.”

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Jackson said his squad has competed in several events so far this year, including trips to Covington, La., New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“It’s full force track,” he said. “We have some kids that do long jump, triple jump, high jump, we have some that throw the shot put and turbo javelin.”

He said the results thus far have been strong with approximately 20 members of his squad having qualified to participate at the Junior Olympic Games at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich. Jackson, however, said because of financial reasons his players may not be able to make that trip.

“The problem we have is school is right around the corner, and that’s a nice 18-hour drive,” he said. “It’s a little tight for us right now.”

Jackson said his team typically consists of around 20 kids, but this year’s crop of players lies in the upper 40s.

“I don’t turn away anybody,” he said. “The kids come out because this is what they want to do, and that’s what’s special.”

Two of those athletes are Devonte Loyd, 17, and Madison Grover, 11.

Loyd said he’s been in the program for the past two years and has grown exponentially as a runner.

“I didn’t know the basics before,” he said. “(Jackson) taught me a lot about technique. There’s still more to teach, but I’m learning day by day.”

Grover said she competes in the 100-meter dash, the 200-and 100-meter hurdles. She took home two first-place medals along with a second-place in her first ever track meet recently in Port Allen.

“That was good,” she said. “(Jackson) has taught me not to give up and to push myself.”

At the same meet, Loyd finished first in the 100 while also claiming a second-place in the 200 for his age group.

“Hard work, that’s all I know,” Loyd said. “Hard work succeeds.”

Jackson said his team not only competes on the track but also gives back to its local community. He said his athletes cut grass for the elderly, visit nursing homes and provide turkeys at Thanksgiving time, among other various activities.

“I want these kids to give and show love,” he said. “I want them to know they’re a part of something and that they’re going to get recognized for their talent on the track, but that they also can give back to the community.”

Jackson said while he hopes his kids succeed on the track, he ultimately wants to see them succeed in life.

“The real rewarding part is seeing these kids go onto college and get jobs and be successful,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal that I want to see. Right now the small goal is to develop the kids into young women and young men.”