Eleven local youth athletes (12 total) who train at Next Level Elite Track Club are moving on to the AAU Track and Field National Junior Olympic Championships.
The advancing athletes qualified at the AAU Region 16 (Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas) track meet, which ran from June 28 to 30. As a result, they move on to the National Junior Olympic event, which will be held from July 29 to Aug. 3 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
There were five regional champions and eight top-three fishers in the group of 12 youth athletes who qualified for the Junior Olympic Games. The Next Level Elite track team will have participants in 19 separate events.
The athletes set four Region 16 records. Ja’Marcus Vornes had two region records, one in the 11-year-old boys’ 800 meter with a time of 2:24.68.
He’s won the event three consecutive years.
Peyton Parker set a regional record in the 11-year-old boys’ 1,500-meter race with a time of 4:50.13 and set another regional record in the 3,000-meter race with a time of 10:32.02.
Adonis Dunnigan set a regional record in the 9-year-old boys’ turbo javelin with a throw of 87 feet, 7 inches.
Dunnigan already made a trip to the Junior Olympics in 2018, when he finished 10th in the country for 8-year-olds in the turbo javelin.
His goal for this upcoming event is to throw 95 feet.
Alyx Glessner also placed 10th nationally in the javelin last year in the 15-16 age group. Glessner said in a release that she likes the independence of the sport because her goal as an athlete is to “keep progressing and take in as much as I can. I believe that there’s always room to grow and there is always a new chapter.”
Jorryn Hall finished at the top in the Region 16 track meet too, claiming first in the 11-year-old girls’ shot put. Hall said her favorite part of track is “being motivated to be a better version of herself,” and that she wants to clear 30 feet in the shot put at nationals. Hall’s younger brother, Jagger, who is 7, is the youngest athlete at Next Level Elite who will compete in the Junior Olympics. He’s a long-jump competitor.
“I like track because it pushes me to run fast,” he said, “and I like beating people and getting medals.”
Next Level Elite excelled at last year’s Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines, Iowa, having two athletes finish in the top eight in the country and receiving medals in their age brackets. Vornes was sixth in the 400 meters and fourth in the 800 meters for 10-year-old boys.
Vormes’ goals for the upcoming games are to finish the 400 in under a minute and the 800 in less than 2:20. Parker finished sixth in the 800 meters and third in the 1,500 meters for 10-year-old boys in his first year participating in the Junior Olympics.
His objective this year is to win it all.
The team has one athlete not from the surrounding area: 12-year-old Alaina Perez is from Topeka, but trains at Next Level Elite.
She clinched in the long jump event for her age division.
Local qualifiers for AAU Junior Olympics (youngest to oldest)
1. Jagger Hall, 7 years old, Manhattan: Long jump
2. Adonis Dunnigan, 8 years old, Manhattan: Turbo javelin
3. Israel Cameron, 9 years old, Manhattan: 100 meters
4. Jorryn Hall, 11 years old, Manhattan: girls’ shot put
5. Peyton Parker, 11 years old, Wamego: 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters
6. Ja’marcus Vornes, 11 years old, Manhattan: 200 meters, 400 meters and 800 meters
7. James Dunnigan Jr., 11 years old, Manhattan: 100 meters and long jump
8. Markus Severson, 11 years old, Junction City: 1500 meters and 3,000 meters
9. Seth Dukes, 11 years old, Ft. Riley: 800 meters and 1,500 meters
10. Alaina Perez, 12 years old, Topeka: Long jump
11. Gabriel Effong, 15 years old, Manhattan: 100 meters and 200 meters
12. Alyx Glessner, 17 years old, Manhattan: Javelin