Rocky Mount Rockets set for regional track & field test

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Sports Editor

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Running in big meets is becoming normal for members of the Rocky Mount Rockets.

When the USATF Region 3 Junior Olympic Championships take place this weekend in Greensboro, the Rockets will once again be running among the better competition on the East coast.

Approximately 20 local girls, ages 8-under to 12-under will compete at N.C. A&T, and the qualifiers will advance to the national championships in Lawrence, Kansas later this month.

Coach Mark Davis’ squad sent eight athletes to the nationals last summer in Sacramento, California. That experience, along with a schedule that included six consecutive weekends of competing throughout the state and Virginia, has the group at its best entering the most crucial meets of the season.

“There’s not a lot of pressure on the girls,” Davis said. “Last year was a good experience for them, and when I look at them this year, I can see they are not afraid, and they are coming in with confidence.”

The 8-under squad will bring state championship credentials to this weekend’s meet, having won the 4x400 title recently in Greensboro. The group’s 4x100 relay team finished as state runner-up.

A’Riyana Battle will compete for the Rockets’ 8-under team in the 100.

The 11-12 age group also has a solid 4x400 team that is ranked fifth heading into the regionals, and Jayla Mills goes into the meet ranked fourth in the 800.

The bulk of the championship experience comes from the 9-10 age group. Candrice Davis finished as the 1,500 meter state champion, while Kennedy Turrentine placed fifth in the same event.

Kira Jones turned in her fastest time in the 400 (1:04) and finished as state runner up. 

Both the 9-10 age group’s 4x400 (Turrentine, Braylie Phillips, Br’Zyah Harrell, Jaidyn Thomas) and 4x100 (Jones, Harrell, Phillips, Taylor Lucas) relay teams finished as state runner-up.

The regional meet, which begins Friday and concludes Sunday, will include athletes from North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. 

The top five in each event advance for a trip to the Junior National Olympics in Kansas, and Davis said he expects between 12-14 members to qualify.

To aid in the financial undertaking of such a trip, the team currently is selling raffle tickets, and there likely will be more fundraising efforts in the next two weeks.

“It has taken a lot of commitment,” Davis said. “The parents I’ve had have been a plus for me.”

To buy a raffle ticket, contact Davis at 252-904-1676 or Ayatta Lucas at 252-343-9993.