Originally found at www.news-journalonline.com
Written by, Jordan Kahn
It’s easy to dream big when you’re a kid, and Volusia County has a special group of youth with a dream so big, it’s universal — the Olympic Dream.
And these kids aren’t just wishin’ away the summer playing Usain Bolt in the backyard. They’re working, sweating, listening, and it’s about to pay off in a very special opportunity.
Twenty-three locals ages 8 and 16 qualified for the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics being held in Norfolk, Va., from Aug. 1-7.
They’ve been competing and training with the Daytona Beach Supersonics Track Club since April.
Around 80 kids were in the program when the season started, but after district and state events, only these 23 remain, and only 21 of those are going to be able to make it to the games.
Freddie Morrell of Daytona Beach founded this city track and field program 20 years ago. And by now, he’s used to seeing big ideas come from little people.
“We’ve had a 5-year-old pretending he was 6,” he said with a laugh.
Morrell said if a 6-year-old can qualify, the AAU will let them run, and he’s had kids as young as 5 join the Supersonics. But the AAU’s official starting age is 8.
That’s how old Jasmyn Dorsey of Daytona Beach is. She’s the Supersonics’ youngest AAU Junior Olympic Games qualifier this year.
“When I first saw her come out in track practice, I said, ‘That’s a star,’ ” Morrell said.
“When she took off running around that track I saw the form she had and I said, ‘Wow, she’s a natural.’ ”
Dorsey will be competing in the 100- and 200-meter sprints and the long jump. She qualified, like most of her teammates, at the AAU Junior Olympics Qualifier track meet in Tallahassee from June 24-27.
Is she nervous?
“Kind of, ’cause I’ve never done this before and I don’t know how it’s going to be because there’s always two girls that beat me,” she said.
“It’s just two girls,” she said of just how far away or just how close that can be.
“She’s determined to beat” those two girls, said Dorsey’s mom, Raeann Boutilier.
And Boutilier said facing that win-some, lose-some part of life at such a vulnerable age is a major positive.
“It just motivates them to do better,” she said. “It gives them a lot of life experience.”
One of the older kids on the team, 13-year-old Donovan Sheffield, said he loves track and football. And he’ll be competing at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in the triple jump and the long jump, where his personal best is 17 feet, 7 inches.
But Sheffield said he wants to be a lawyer. The discipline he’s acquiring in athletics will help him achieve that goal, he said.
Many of the Supersonics’ younger AAU Junior Olympians are still entertaining some very big athletic aspirations though.
Cashana Peterson’s 9-year-old son, Terrell Peterson, is competing in the 4×400-meter relay. She said her son has wanted to compete in the AAU Junior Olympics since he was 4 years old.
“We watched the Olympics and he said, ‘Oh, I want to be just like them. I want to be faster than them.’ He’s always had this big dream about being the fastest runner on the Earth,” Cashana Peterson said.
Travon Killins, 9, of Daytona Beach, said, “I’m going to do everything until I go to the pros or get too old and I can’t do it anymore. I want to play football pro and track pro and basketball pro,” he said.
This will be Killins’ third AAU Junior Olympics.
In Tallahassee’s qualifier finals, Killins anchored the 4×100-meter relay team and came from behind to give his team the gold. His older brother Adrian did the same thing in the 11- and 12-year-old division of the 4×100-meter relay.
Being an AAU Junior Olympian “seems normal to me because I’m used to running track,” Killins said.
But his grandfather, Larry Killins of Daytona Beach, knows the accomplishment of making the AAU Junior Olympics is, as he put it, “amazing.”
There will be some 8,000 young athletes at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, but from each state, in each age group, only the top four in each event make it to the games.
Like most of these athletes’ parents, Larry Killins is traveling to Virginia to watch the games.
“I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world,” he said.
Killins’ sons Terrance and Adrian competed in the AAU Junior Olympic Games with the Supersonics and now his grandsons Adrian and Travon are in it.
“You’ve got a second-generation sibling rivalry going on,” he said.
Killins said he is especially proud his son is using one of the same tools he used to make sure his kids stayed active and motivated. Being competitive at such a young age is a big advantage in life, Killins said.
“They’re more focused. They learn leadership. And they learn unity, because when one is not successful at an event, they all feel for that kid. They’re not selfish,” he said.
“We’re all in it together, the kids and also the parents. It’s a beautiful harmonious set.”
James Henry, one of the many local coaches who work with the Supersonics, said keeping these kids out of trouble and off the streets is on the coaches and parents mind.
The motto they put on the kids’ T-shirts this year is, “Turning potential into positive energy.”
“We try to teach them a lot of life lessons,” Henry said.
And you can hear it from the kids.
Kamron Lee, 9, of Port Orange, said track isn’t easy, but it’s taught him that, “good work pays off.”
Deeshari Keith, 9, of Holly Hill, is going to his second AAU Junior Olympics Games and will compete in the 4×100-meter relay.
“It was really tough competition,” he said of his first time to the games.
He likes having that challenge to take on.
“In life if you don’t have goals, then you don’t have anything to do,” he said.
Denzel Houston, 11, of Daytona Beach, said the experience has taught him, “You’ve got to practice hard and work hard and you will achieve your goal.”
And how knows? Maybe one day, a former Daytona Supersonics Track Club member will hoist real Olympic gold.
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