COLUMBIA — Seven young Columbia athletes will get to experience national competition later this month.
Kayvona Bragg, 11, Graham Buresh, 9, Mikayla Logan, 12, Niyah McAdoo, 9, Randi Overkamp, 8, Madison Peth, 8, and Holly Schweikert, 9, of Columbia’s Blue Thunder Track Club will participate in the National Junior Olympic Games July 26 through Aug. 2 at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich.
In the AAU Region VIII Track and Field Championships the weekend of June 28 in Joplin, Buresh finished third in the 400-meter run and second in 800- and 1500-meter races, qualifying him for all three events in the national meet.
Buresh was especially excited about qualifying because the regional championships were held on his ninth birthday.
“Graham got to run on his birthday. It was a great present for him,” Graham’s mom, Kim Buresh, said.
Buresh has been running since he was 3, when his parents entered him in the Columbia Track Club Fun Run. His mom said this was a great family event that encourages children to be life-long runners.
Buresh began running competitively this year when he joined the Blue Thunder Track Club. He said he enjoys the competition.
“I like running. It’s fun,” Buresh said.
Since qualifying, Buresh has added more time for practice to his schedule. In addition to practicing twice a week with coach Cameron Cross, Buresh practices at least 15 minutes a day by himself to prepare for the Junior Olympics.
“I go down to my basement and I stretch and do exercises to get stronger. I also run outside,” Buresh said.
Like Buresh, Overkamp, a long jumper, also practices at home.
“We use some tape to put down on the driveway and then she jumps into the grass,” Randi’s mom, Brenda Overkamp, said.
Overkamp practices about three times a week, often with a makeshift long jump pit.
Overkamp began track at the suggestion of the parents of her teammates on her tee-ball team a couple years ago.
“She was playing tee-ball and some of the other parents said ‘She’s really fast, you should get her in track,’” Brenda Overkamp said.
Soon after, Overkamp started participating in track and field events on Wednesday nights in June with the Columbia Track Club. Last year, she started with the Blue Thunder Track Club.
Overkamp nearly missed her opportunity to compete in the Junior Olympics. Brenda Overkamp said she almost did not make nationals because she placed fifth in districts in the long jump and 400 meters. Only the top four competitors were able to advance to the regional meet, but one of the girls who qualified decided not to go, so Overkamp went and earned fourth by jumping 10 feet 8 and a half inches, quite a feat for someone who is only 4-foot-8-inches tall.
“I’m very excited and proud of her,” said her mom, who plans to travel with the rest of the family to watch Overkamp jump in Michigan.
Bragg also qualified for the long jump, placing third in the regional. She also ran in the 100 and 200, but did not qualify in those events.
According to Erika Buford, Bragg’s mom, she scratched on her first two long-jump attempts. The official said she touched the line, though Bragg says she does not think she did. On her last attempt, Bragg jumped 12 feet 8 inches to qualify for nationals.
“I’m very proud of her because this is her first year with the AAU, and she is with kids who have been doing it a lot longer. I’m proud of the whole team,” Buford said.
McAdoo qualified for the shot put by placing third in the regional. Her personal best AAU competition is 21 feet 9 and a half inches.
“She is super excited to be considered among those other athletes,” McAdoo’s mom, Denise Reynolds, said. “I am so proud and excited. She works so hard and she truly deserves it.”
Reynolds said McAdoo is trying to stay focused on the event. She practices two to four times a week, running and practicing her technique on the standing throw and the Irish Wield.
“One funny thing is that the other night she was dreaming about the shot put and talking in her sleep about technique,” Reynolds said. “She even lifted her arm up and was practicing a throw in her sleep.”