Recently, the 2011 AAU Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships were contested in New Orleans at Tad Gormley Stadium.
Think Detroit PAL’s Elite track and field team left the national championship meet for age-group standouts with a noteworthy amount of earned hardware. PAL ensured the national collection of athletes recognized Detroit was in the house.
Think Detroit PAL youth garnered 22 medals in 13 events at the 2011 AAU Junior Olympics, where nearly 80 TDP Elite athletes qualified for the competition.
Standing on the top after the eight-day event was Detroit’s 13-year-old Isaiah Griffith, who collected two gold medals. He captured the boys long jump gold in the Sub-Youth division with a jump of 20-feet,1-inch. He also won the gold in the boys Sub-Youth triple jump with a jump of 42’ 5”, a new national record. His final jump marked the third time Griffith broke the national record during the event.
Former Pershing High standout and Olympic Gold Medalist Darnell Kenneth Hall said, “Besides Griffith’s natural talents, when he first came into the program he was one of our better 400-meter runners and he has matured. I’ll tell you, before Griffith I had not paid that much attention to watching the triple jump since Mike Conley, but he is so exciting, you have to watch. It was great seeing him break the record in front of one of the U.S.’s greatest triple jumpers. Griffith helped make the time in New Orleans even more special, because in 1992 in this same stadium, I made the U.S.A. Olympic team.”
Other medal winners include: Christopher Thames (9) — Sub-Bantam — 800-meters; Michael Williams (11) — Sub-Midget — 100m and 200m; Christian Carter (10) — Bantam — 400m; Kevin Hayes (14) – Youth — 200m Hurdles; Keianna Ingram (17) — Young Women — High Jump; and Cameron Cooper (12) — Midget — 800m and 1500m.
The TDP relays also made their presence felt as the Midget (11-12) Boys 4×100 relay (M.J. Griffin, Vincent Gray, Michael Williams and Robert Mitchell); Bantam (9-10) Boys 4×400 relay (Christian Carter, Jamal Morgan, Christopher Thames and John Patton) and the Youth (13-14) Boys 4×400 relay (MC Hampton, Kevin Hayes, Devin McLeod and Demetrius Toney all earned medals.
Sure there is a cavalcade of men and women coaching and mentoring these young people who did Detroit proud, but it sure does not hurt having Hall mentoring. Especially since too many urban youth are solely focused, to their detriment, on football and basketball, so it is great having a person there who has already done the sport at its highest level.
“I’m so fortunate to be doing this at the grassroots level,” Hall said. “Especially track, because I get to coach the field events, sprinting and distance running, and we do not recruit to develop our young athletes. I stay on all our youth, but that is how I do things. I’m concerned about seeing the whole person develop.
“One of the things I try to leave with the kids is understanding how to win and lose, because you can get beat in this sport. Unfortunately when I came up all we were taught was winning was everything. So when I get to the Olympic level and lose to the fastest man in the world (Mike Johnson), I was devastated instead of enjoying the moment. I make sure the kids know that if they work hard and go out and produce a PR (personal record) and finish sixth, they can hold their heads high because they are winners. I think the best thing I can offer the kids and Griffith is the stuff between the ears. not just on the track.”
Added Dewayne Jones, TDP’s director of athletics: “Congratulations to the kids, parents and coaches for a job well done. Our track program continues to accomplish great things which includes character building and responsibility. This is truly a program that our community can be proud of.”