Sprinters flourish on final day of AAU Junior Olympic Games

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Originally published at www.nola.com/sports

Written by: Chris Abshire, The Times-Picayune

New Orleans– The final day of the AAU Junior Olympics brought the conclusion of the track and field events Saturday at Tad Gormley Stadium, the culmination of eight days of intense competition on the track.

With more than 12,000 athletes from 46 states and Puerto Rico represented, the track and field leg is by far the most comprehensive sport in the Junior Olympics.

During a scorching afternoon down on the track, a quintet of Georgia sprinters made their trip to New Orleans memorable, with each winning two events.

Ten-year-old Tia Jones claimed her third and fourth event victories of the week with a sweep of the 11-and-under 100 and 200-meter dashes. Jones, who hails from Kennesaw, Ga., ran a time of 12.89 seconds in the 100 meters and a 26.05 in the 200 meters to earn the gold in both to add to her 80-meter hurdles and outdoor pentathlon titles earlier this week.

Jones’ fellow Kennesaw native, Taj Griffin, earned a sweep of the Youth 100 and 200-meter dashes. Griffin, 14, notched his first win by posting an 11.37-second 100 meters and followed that up just an hour later by edging California’s Javonte Norman by .02 seconds at the finish line with his time of 22.54 seconds to win the 200 meters.

Atlanta, Ga.’s Jada Martin, 16, continued Georgia’s dominance, also sweeping the 100 and 200-meter dash races in her age group while edging out New Orleans’ Aleia Hobbs in the 200 meters.

While Georgia athletes may have led the way, they were far from the lone standout performers, as 12 AAU national records fell Sunday and 41 were set for the week.

Amir Rasul of Miami, Fl. was awarded one of the Joel Ferrell Awards as Outstanding Male Runner after setting two new AAU national record times en route to sweeping the 13-and-under 100 and 200-meter dash events.

Rasul, 13, broke his own 100-meter dash record with a mark of 11.15 seconds and broke the 200-meter mark by .15 seconds via a run of 22.39 seconds.

Local athletes also produced a healthy showing in their home state, as seven Louisiana sprinters earned top-3 finishes, including two victories.

Kavahra Holmes, a standout sprinter, LSU wide receiver commitment and senior at Breaux Bridge High School, grabbed the 400-meter dash gold in the men’s 400-meter race with a thrilling final 100 meters to overtake Michigan’s Dakarie McKinnie down the stretch for a final total of 46.07 seconds.

Sharkeith Beverly, 16, of Marrero cruised to a victory in the boys’ 16-and-under intermediate 200-meter dash. Beverly nearly went wire-to-wire, ultimately posting a time of 21.61 seconds to run away with the title.

Corey Lambert Jr. competed in the boys sub-youth long jump and narrowly missed placing with a jump of 10′-4″.

With thousands of athletes around the sizzling turf track and thousands more in the stands, staying hydrated and was a battle for many of the Junior Olympians, with many cramping up immediately upon finishing their sprints.

Chicago native Shamier Little, 16, earned the Ferrell Award for Outstanding Female Runner after winning the girls 400-meter intermediate dash to add to her week’s haul that already included a 100-meter hurdle gold and a 400-meter hurdle win in national record fashion.

Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams, both former LSU sprinters and Olympians, and long-jump Olympic record holder Bob Beaman were on hand Saturday to present the Ferrell awards.

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