COLUMBIA — On a warm summer’s day filled with the sound of cicadas, children ranging from age 3 to 15 gathered to put their running abilities on display at a Columbia mini track meet.
The Blue Thunder Track Club was a major participant in the event Wednesday at Hickman High School, which was organized by the Columbia Track Club. Although the meet primarily consists of friendly competition, there are several well-decorated youth runners that participate, including Mikayla Logan and Kayla Funkenbusch.
“It’s a good chance to come out and improve upon my times,” Logan said.
Logan, who is in the middle of her third year with the club, has become a successful runner. In her first year, she qualified for the Hershey Nationals in the 200 meters and ended up fourth overall. In her second year, she advanced to nationals in the long jump and 100 and 200 meters. She ended up on the Junior Olympic National Honor Roll in the 100 and 200 and was an All-American in the long jump.
“It’s (Blue Thunder) a lot of travel and a lot of hard work, but it gives me a chance to come out and compete,” Logan said.
Logan, 12, says she is also fond of playing basketball.
“If it comes down to the two further down the road, I’d probably choose track,” Logan said. “It is a more individualized sport, and I feel a better sense of accomplishment when I do well in track.”
Logan won the 200 meters in last week's Amateur Athletic Union track meet in Olathe, Kan. The Blue Thunder Track Club competes mostly in events put on by the AAU, which is one of the largest nonprofit, volunteer sports organizations in the United States.
“I’m pretty competitive,” said Logan while laughing. “I definitely want to come out and win in whatever event I am participating in.”
Logan’s mother and Blue Thunder treasurer, Nawassa Logan, ran track in high school in St. Louis and got involved with the club once her daughter expressed interest in running.
“I like the fact that she’s able to stay active while learning the fundamentals of track,” Nawassa Logan said. “I had no idea that she would be this good at it right away.”
Logan competes in United States Amateur Track and Field meets aside from the AAU meets that Blue Thunder participates in. The organizations are similar, but there are slight differences, coach Camren Cross said.
“USATF is a separate organization than AAU in which you have to own a membership card to participate in those meets and the age groups consists of two-year age differences, while the AAU age groups are only one-year difference,” Cross said.
Funkenbusch, another 12-year-old, is in her second year with Blue Thunder, and like Logan, has been successful in her time with the club, especially in distance events. She won the 800, 1500 and 3000 meters in last week’s AAU meet in Kansas and has finished in at least the top three in each event in every meet so far this year.
“I’m extremely competitive, but I am more concerned about my times, rather than what place I get,” Funkenbusch said.
Funkenbusch also has a family background in track and field. Her mother, Karen Funkenbusch, is the distance coach for Blue Thunder and went to college at Truman State on a track and field scholarship in the mid 1980s, specializing in the 800 and 1500.
“I have always had a passion for running,” Karen Funkenbusch said. “I didn’t want to pressure Kayla any into getting into the sport, but when she came to me and decided she wanted to run, I said I would support her in anyway possible.”
Funkenbusch qualified for regionals last year, but did not advance to nationals. To do that this year she must finish in the top four in one of her events among a pool of runners from the Ozark, Arkansas and Oklahoma districts, as well as her own Missouri Valley district.
“Kayla has improved herself a lot and has a darn good chance of going to nationals this year,” Cross said.
Funkenbusch and Logan both share goals of taking their track talent to the college and even professional level, and Cross said he thinks they are on their way.
“They share a lot in common, believe it or not,” Cross said. “They have parents that push them, they do a lot of work away from practice and they both show leadership characteristics on the team, and most importantly they are die-hard competitors.”
Funkenbusch and Logan will continue to prepare for this year's nationals in Des Moines, Iowa. Their next hurdle is this weekend when the Blue Thunder will travel to Jefferson City to compete at the state meet.