“We were excited to win both competitions,” said head coach Stephon Rivas. “The kids are looking forward to nationals.”
The Mark Trail Athletic Association (MTAA) was created 17 years ago by Rivas to give economically-disadvantaged youth an opportunity to compete in running events on a local, state, regional and national level. The MTAA, based in Decatur, has now grown into a non-profit organization that serves over 150 children each year with an age range of 8 to 17.
“We introduce new events to the kids and that gives them the experience of developing a goal and trying to beat it,” said Rivas.
Six female athletes, Serena Tate (100-meter dash), Brooke Fung Chung (1,500-meter run), Farrah Johnson (1,500-meter race walk), Andrea Dendy (800-meter run), Sarah Matthews (triple jump) and Bria Matthews (long jump) won their respective competitions during the qualifier meets.
Rivas, who participated in AAU events during competitions in his youth, knows the value that the program has on the athletes in every aspect of their lives. “They get the opportunity to exercise, which prevents childhood obesity, and stay active during the summertime.” Said Rivas.
“The most important thing the athletes learn is discipline because they have clearly defined goal of winning their event know what they have to do to achieve it.”
The quartet of Italo Jenkins, Xavier Gaither, Jonathon Crayton and Arlen Epps won the age 8 & under category in qualifying. Nolan Johnson, Andrew Douglas, Jaylen Outler, Justin Jackson, Terez Davis-Giles and Santana Walton were part were parts of 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that claimed first place among the 10 and 11 year old boys. Finally, Dylan Belisile, Alonzo White, Amir Taylor and Kyree Rice won the 4x800 meter relay in the 11 and 12 year old division along with William Taylor for the turbo javelin.