Youth athletes race for Junior Olympic XC titles

Youth athletes race for Junior Olympic XC titles

Provided by USATF

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - More than 2,400 young athletes who have advanced through association and regional championships will meet this Saturday, December 10, at the 2011 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships at Whispering Pines Golf Course in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

This is the second time Myrtle Beach has hosted a USATF National Championship this year. In July, Myrtle Beach played host to the USA Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championships and World Youth Track & Field Trials. The cross country course is less than half a mile from the Atlantic Ocean and features a flat course that should yield fast times for competitors.

This year marks the first year the sub-bantam age group will contest a race at the championships, bringing the count to 12 championship races throughout the day. Each age division will compete over the following distances: sub bantam (8 and under) racing 2 km; bantam (9-10) racing 3 km; midget (11-12) racing 3 km; youth (13-14) racing 4 km; intermediate (15-16) racing 5 km; and young men/women (17-18) racing 5 km.

Olympian and former Junior Olympic athlete Amy Yoder Begley will be on hand throughout the championship weekend to interact with the athletes. Begley will speak at the opening session, be available for autographs and even serve as a guest starter for select races.

This year's athletes will build upon the 30 years of Junior Olympic history. Past standouts including Begley, Andrew Wheating and Deena Kastor have emerged as successful distance runners and gone on to represent the United States on the Olympic stage.

Who to watch

Five age-group champions from the 2010 Junior Olympics return to defend their titles. Lauren Turner (Spring Lake, N.C.) and Coleman Mitchell (Durham. N.C.) both won the 2010 Bantam titles by sizable margins and will look to repeat their success as they move up to the Midget age-group. Claire Graves (Highland, Calif.) won the last edition of the Midget girl’s race and will look to repeat in the Youth division.

Last year Jacob Ogden (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) and Jesse Delgado (Waseca, Minn.) crossed the finish line stride-for-stride with identical times of 10:17, but Ogden was ruled the victor. The duo are both racing in the Youth Boy's age-group this year and will surely be looking for a re-match. Miguel Bautista (Long Beach, Calif.) won last year’s youth age-group and will look for a second title in the intermediate division. Summer Harper (Orem, Utah) was the runner-up in the intermediate division and will look for the title as she returns to the same age-group this year.