Oklahoma’s Young Athletes Break Records
By K.J. WEBB
Editor at Large
PACE SETTER AND COACH: Eight-year-old National Junior Olympics track and field champion Gentry Williams with his coach Jacqueline White of the Oklahoma Jaguars Track Club. Williams broke two national records: the 200 meter and 400 meter, at the USA Track & Field National Junior Olympics, July 23-29, 2012.
Exceptional athletic talent runs through Oklahoma’s history. A few examples of Oklahoma athletes who have excelled in their sport and achieved international renown include Troy Aikman, Johnny Bench, Brian Bosworth, Bart Connor, Mickey Mantle, Shannon Miller, Warren Spahn, Jim Thorpe, Spencer Tillman, Wayman Tisdale, Nancy Lopez, Billy Sims, Ira Davenport, and the list goes on. Joining this prestigious group in the future could be two young athletes who are true “up and comers” in the world of track and field.
Eight-year-old Gentry Williams, a third-grader from Broken Arrow, recently returned with two gold medals from his first time competing at the Track and Field (USATF) National Junior Olympics in Baltimore, Maryland. Williams broke two national records in track and field: the Junior Olympics meet record in the 200 meter at 29.7 seconds, as well as the national record in the 400 meter race, running it in 65 seconds. According to his coach Jacqueline White, it’s the first time that a young athlete from Oklahoma has accomplished this in a national track and field meet.
White, a former track and field runner, coaches endurance, distance and field running for the Oklahoma Jaguars Track Club. She has coached Williams since he was five. When asked about Gentry’s record-breaking achievement White says, “It’s huge. Gentry beat the previous record by one full second. In sports, that’s a substantial difference.” Speaking of William’s athletic ability White says, “Gentry not only has talent, he has dedication and compassion and heart. He is very dedicated and since day one he has followed direction and always tried to be the best.” White says that track and field is all about what the runner puts into it. However, parents’ participation is also very important she says. “Parents play a very important role in their kids success in any sport; track and field is no different. You have to make sure your child is eating healthily, get him or her to practice on time, and understand that there is a necessary balance between working hard at a sport and also leaving enough time to relax and have fun.” White says she sees a real future for Williams in track and field. “Gentry can go all the way. If he sticks with it and keeps doing what he is doing, he has a very bright future in track.” When asked how he felt about breaking the national records and winning his gold medals at the National Junior Olympics, Williams says, “It felt amazing to break those national records. I want to keep running, getting medals, and get a college scholarship.” This is entirely possible, according to White. “There are always college scouts at these events. They are there to look at the older athletes, but they take notice of the younger athletes too.”
Another young, talented track and field record-breaking athlete from Oklahoma is Jenks seventh grader Miles Jehlicka. He was one of only five athletes representing the state of Oklahoma and the Southwest region at the Hershey North American Games held in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Hershey Track and Field Games are the largest youth sports program in North America with the stated mission of helping get kids on the right track, teaching lifelong lessons, and having fun every step, leap, jump and throw along the way. Jehlicka has only run track for three years but still managed to break the 800-meter record at the Sooner State Games in Putnam City in June of this year, completing it in 2:28.30. The previous record had been in place since 1991. According to Melissa Jehlicka, his mother, “Miles has always enjoyed sports and started out playing football and soccer. However, three years ago we joined the Jenks America Track and Field Club and Miles really fell for the sport. So much in fact that he stopped both soccer and football and now focuses on running track.” Jehlicka says that Miles, and her ten year-old daughter who also runs track, love being around other kids who are always striving to be better. “Track is a very positive sport, and there is a very positive spirit around these kids. They are not competing against one another; they are competing against themselves. They are always working to break new personal records (PRs).” Jehlicka is very focused on track and, like Williams, shows a natural talent for the sport, as well as the dedication and enthusiasm needed to excel.
Both young athletes bring positive attention to the state, and serve as excellent role models for other kids, showing what dedication, hard work and enthusiasm can accomplish. Oklahoma has much to be proud of, its young athletes included.
For more information about the Oklahoma Jaguars Track Club visit www.oklahomajaguars.com.
For more information about the Jenks America track and Field Club visit www.jenksamericatc.org.
For more information about the Hershey Track and Field games visit www.hersheytrackandfield.com.