Training for the 2012 AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) Junior Olympic Games began last week for seventeen young local athletes. The athletes, who are part of the Danbury Athletic Youth Organization Lightning Track and Field Team, will be gathering in Houston, Texas from July 25 to August 4 to compete for the gold in events including wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, karate, and track and field.
The road to the Junior Olympics is a long and arduous process: the group first needed to advance through district meets across the state of Connecticut. Once the group qualified in state, they continued their journey to the regionals held New Britain and competed against athletes from across New England. At regionals, twenty-three Lightning members qualified for the Junior Olympics, though only seventeen are attending.
Long before the bang of the starter pistol, the leap over the first hurdle, or the cheers of victory, training up for the Junior Olympics is a monumental task in itself. “During track meets, you have to be there at 8am and leave possibly by 8pm,” said one parent at practice as the others chuckled. “It’s an all-day affair.” Practices for the DAYO team are held in the Danbury High School track and can run two to three hours a day, three days a week.
“We have a great group of kids,” said Coach Darrien Joseph as he whistled to get the athletes into starting position. “The distance kids are very strong in races from 800 to 3,000 meters. The sprint team,” he added, “is coming along and they run everything from 100 to 400 meters.”
Though the Junior Olympic team continues to train and improve, funding the athlete’s trip to Houston is its own hurdle.
“Travel expenses work out to be around $750 per athlete,” said Joesph as we observed the team sprinting around the bend of the track. So far the team has been able to setup multiple fundraisers, including car washes, a fundraiser booth at the Danbury City Concert, and a receipt collection in Burger King where the team received 10% of the total dollar amount on orders. “We’ll continue to do fundraisers until it’s time to go.”
As the team rested between iteration, I could see the enthusiasm in these young athlete’s faces. When asked about their competition in Houston, the athletes exuded honor and anticipation.
“I’m proud to be representing Danbury,” said Sara DaSilva as other teammates nodded in agreement. Another athlete blurted, “I’m excited, but I’m afraid of the heat!” The group erupted in laughter.
Donations for the DAYO 2012 Junior Olympic team are welcomed and appreciated through July 28. To donate, contact Evelyn Seipio at firstname.lastname@example.org.