PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (WMBB) – Seven Port St. Joe track and field athletes qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics this summer.
Madelyn Gortemoller, Lexi Fountain, Khyla Rhodes, Kaelani McNair, Mari Johnson, Leyah O’Kelley and state champion Darian Mills are all heading to Houston, Texas at the end of July to compete.
Fountain and Rhodes will be competing in the 100m and 200m races, Gortemoller in the 400m and 200m, McNair in the 100m and long jump, Johnson in the 100 hurdles and long jump, O’Kelley in the 800m and 1500m, and Mills in the 100m hurdles and 200m.
“We worked hard, most of us want to compete at the next level so I would said going over there it will build character for us to compete at the next level and it kinda help us get faster so when we come back to our hometown regular meets we’ll be faster, so it builds character to go over there. We are gonna try our hardest and if we come out on top then that’s great,” Mills said.
Port St. Joe head coach Keion McNair said competing on a national level like this will help his athletes grow in all aspects.
“I expect them to do their best, go out, run their hardest and actually try and come out of there with a medal. There is a big jump coming from just running against Florida athletes because Florida is in my opinion one of the speed states. Once we go and compete against the other states, they are already confident in what they need to do,” McNair said.
This group of runners is extremely excited to compete on a big stage too and hope to attract some attention to the Panhandle as well.
“At first I was like, ‘Woah, there’s gonna be a lot of people,’ but now it’s like more exposure I guess you could say cause more people, more talent, people might be faster than you. I just really wanna do my best and set a PR and do the best I can,” O’Kelley said.
The AAU Junior Olympics is set for July 28 to August 7 in Houston, Texas.