Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Maximum Velocity Event Connects Olympics, Local Athletes in Danville

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DANVILLE, Ky — It was an experience that could almost be described as surreal for seven local athletes and two assistant track coaches|

East Jessamine’s Jade Jenkins, right, was instructed by
Olympian Dwight Phillips during a long-jump drill Friday
at Centre College in Danville.
Where could you go spend three days with eight Olympians — two of whom are current world-
record holders — and a three-time U.S. national-champion pole vaulter? Surprisingly, the answer is Danville’s Centre College for Maximum Velocity.
From Wednesday, June 11, to Friday, June 13, West Jessamine High School’s Conner Chess, Susanna McDaniel and assistant coach Caleb McDaniel joined East Jessamine’s Austin Yates, Jade Jenkins, Stephanie Snyders and assistant Cindy Reilly, in addition to West’s assistant baseball coach Steven Shearer’s sons, Cade and Cooper at the event.
A total of nine world-class athletes headed up the clinics for the camp held at Centre, which concluded Saturday with the Bluegrass State Games.
Maximum Velocity, was a dream come true for Centre College track and field and cross-country head coach Lisa Owens. It all started when Owens met her long-time idol Jackie Joyner-Kersee five years ago. At that time, Owens pitched Joyner-Kersee the idea of doing an overnight camp at the college. Considered by many to be one of the best female athletes to ever live, Joyner-Kersee was instrumental in helping develop the camp in its first two years. Joined by Sharrieffa Barksdale, a 1984 Olympian in the 400-meter hurdles, the athletes drew interest from what looks like a who’s who in the track and field record books. An impressive list of athletes have shown up over last four years to coach the camp athletes ranging from ages 12-19.
Barksdale continues to coordinate the Olympic athletes each year. Her vibrant nature and inspirational manner gets the campers motivated. Barksdale’s loud shouts of “Work” at any given time throughout the day demands the campers’ response with “Hard.”
The camp introduction was made on Wednesday afternoon by Owens. She went on to introduce the first four clinicians, which included Jamie Nieto, a two-time Olympic high jumper; 2012 gold medalist Aries Merritt (men’s 110-meter hurdles and current world record holder); bobsled and sprinting gold- and silver-medalist Lauryn Williams; and three-time pole-vaulting national champion Mark Hollis.
Remaining Olympians arrived Thursday with the welcoming of two-time Olympian and long-jump gold-medal winner Dwight Phillips; Hazel Clark-Riley, a middle distance-runner and three-time Olympian with seven U.S. titles in the 800-meter women’s run; Olympic discus gold-medalist Stefanie Brown-Trafton; and Kevin Young, who is the only man to ever run a sub-47-second time in the 400-meter hurdles.
“I can’t describe what an incredible opportunity this was. I signed on as a parent/coach. They allow you to kind of follow them around and watch — even ask questions. I definitely took a lot of notes. It just felt kind of dream-like to find myself on a college track having a world-record holder (Kevin Young) and a five-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist (Dwight Phillips) give me advice and coaching tips,” Reilly said. “We will be back. Hopefully with a lot more athletes. I know Jade and Austin really benefited from this camp.”
Campers from as far away as New York and Texas attended last week’s festivities, with ages of athletes ranging from middle school to college.
“We have a couple of great hurdlers moving up from our middle school joining our team at West this coming year. They both placed at states last year. This was a great opportunity for me to pick up some tips for them from two world-record holders (Aries Merritt and Kevin Young), being in the same place,” McDaniel said. “I also picked up some field-event tips from Dwight Phillips and Jamie Nieto. It was a great experience for Conner and Susanna.”
Owens said she wanted to emphasize what a great sport track is and how it is a building block for many other sports. All sports require speed, endurance and strength, and track and field can build confidence, Owens said.
As part of Maximum Velocity, all campers were invited to the Bluegrass State Track and Field Meet also held at Centre College on Saturday. The Bluegrass Games are broken down by age group, allowing entire families to get out and join the fun. Even events that aren’t usually seen at a local level, including the javelin, steeple chase and Hammer, were included in the meet.
McDaniel highlighted the games’ action for local athletes as he won his age group in the high jump with a height of 6 feed, 6 inches.