Coach Camren Cross has good reason to be focused on his athletes’ performances.
As the head coach for Columbia’s Blue Thunder Track Club, which teaches children between ages 6 and 16 the fundamentals of track and field events, he knows that if the kids on his club perform well enough they could compete on a national level.
In addition to local meets held through the Columbia Track Club during the summer, Blue Thunder competes in various Amateur Athletic Union and USA Track and Field events that allow successful athletes to compete in larger venues.
“The outstanding athletes get to go to districts, which this year is in Topeka, Kan.,” Cross said. “Then we get to go to regionals in Joplin. And whoever does well down there goes to nationals in Detroit.”
But the AAU events aren’t the only way for athletes to compete nationally. The Hershey Company sponsors a track and field program that promotes health and fitness in youths and culminates in the North American Final.
“The Hershey Program is a lot less serious,” Cross said. “There’s no spikes, no blocks, none of that stuff.”
Competition does not even start until the final day of the meet.
“They give them a nice little treat like going to Hershey Park and the Chocolate World, and all that stuff.” Cross said.
Mikayla Logan, 11, who is only in her second year of track, competed at Hershey’s national event in Hershey, Pa. last year in the 200 meter dash. She finished fourth. Despite the program’s emphasis on fun, Logan knew she would face stiff competition when she ended up racing against girls that were older than her.
“I hope I’m fortunate enough to go back,” Logan said.
However, this year Blue Thunder faces a tough decision if its athletes make it to Hershey, Pa. Hershey’s North American Final will be held July 31 through Aug. 3, which is concurrent with the final weekend of the Show-Me State Games.
Cross said he wasn’t sure where the club would end up, but knew how the decision would be made.
“I’ll leave it to the kids.” Cross said.