XENIA — From seeing her bright smile, one wouldn’t know that 7-year-old Ja’Lyanah Pope gets nervous when she’s running on the track.
“My legs start shaking really bad, especially right there,” Pope said pointing at the final curve she takes when running the 200- or 400-meter runs. “And they’re still shaking when I get to the finish line.
“It helps when I hear everybody yelling ‘Let’s Go, ‘Lyanah!’” she said, still smiling.
Pope will represent the Xenia Track Club in the USA Track & Field-sanctioned Region 5 Youth Junior Olympic Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Saturday and Sunday, July 7-8 at Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan.
She’ll be running in the 200- and 400-meter runs.
While this is her first year of competing in track and field competitions, Pope has already impressed Lauren Jones, her coach.
“I knew she was fast, right when the season started (in May),” Jones said. “But she wasn’t running the 400 then, she was running the 100 and the 200. She decided to stop running the 100, and wanted to try running the 400. That’s pretty rare for a younger track athlete to want to run a longer distance like that. So, that’s a good sign. She’s gotten better with each time out this season.”
Jones said Pope placed second in the 400 at the USA Track & Field qualifying meet at Cedarville University last month. Her time was 1:28.00. “There’s a lot of kids older than her who can’t set that kind of a time. She’s got a lot of potential,” Jones added.
The Xenia Track Club, or XTC as they like to call themselves, initially had six other team members qualify to the Michigan meet, but conflicts with family vacations or, in some cases, lack of sponsorship funding kept those athletes away.
The team’s 400 relay team of Jaxen Harding, Jamison Williams, Dominic Jones and Marqus Keller qualified. Keller also earned a spot in the 100 open. Female long jumpers Charley Mault and Corbin Steele also advanced. Mault qualified in the girls shot put, too.
Jones thanked Trophy Sports Center, located on 26 Kinsey Road in Xenia, for sponsoring the team this season. Area businesses interested in sponsoring the team can call 937-603-2179, or send off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The top five finishers in each event at the Olivet regionals will qualify for a spot in the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships, set for July 23-29 at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C.
Pope already has a winning strategy that she hopes will get her there.
“I’m gonna run, run, run, run, run …. and turn!” she said.
Run. Shake. Smile. Repeat.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.