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"I've had several new events to learn this summer. Obviously, it's paid off and it's working so far." -- William Ott
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GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA -- William Ott made a decision ahead of his spring track and field season to try something new.
And on Sunday, in only his second try at the multis event, the George Jenkins High School rising senior did something special: He won a national title at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, capping off his 6,398 point run with a 4:47.93 time in the 1,500m.
"I've had seven new events to learn this summer," Ott said. "Obviously, it paid off and it's working so far."
Ott's transition to the decathlon wasn't out of the blue, though. Meeting with his father and coach, the high school pole vaulter and 400 meter runner in Lakeland, Florida, believed he had the requisite skills to cross-over in the 10 events.
"The hardest one being pole vault," he said. "A lot of guys lose points there. It's nice having it there. My 400 ability. I'm really versatile, from the 100, to the mile to the 400. I feel like I've been prepared really well. I'm just excited to keep getting used to these new events."
While it took some time to learn technique for a variety of throwing and jumping events, Ott knew what he could rely on: His fitness on the track, and his ability to learn quickly.
In June at the AAU National Club Championships, in just his first try at the multis, Ott scored 6,189 points to finish third.
His aims are now much higher in 2020.
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Girls 15-16yo Heptathlon:
Fourth time. Sunday marked the fourth time Bryanna Craig had competed in the heptathlon in two months.
But by then, the Millville Track Club 15-year-old wasn't thinking about fatigue. She was having none of it. Instead, she was searching for another effort over 5,000 points.
She had quickly discovered her talent and versatility in the event, from her first try in 2019 and a point total of 4,791 points at the Arcadia Invitational, to her national win at New Balance Nationals Outdoor, scoring 4,958 points -- which was a new freshman class record.
But nothing felt like the 5,094 points she recorded at the USA U20 Championships in June -- a resetting of her own national class mark. On Sunday, that's what Craig wanted as she began her second day of action at the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
While it didn't come, Craig did gain some saving grace.
She scored 4,957 points, just a point shy of the mark she set just months prior. She was largely consistent, going 14.61 seconds in the 100mH, 1.70 in the high jump, 25.26 in the 200m and 32.32 meters in the javelin.
"I think it doesn't really matter how many times I do the heptathlon," she said. "I just know I want to get up to the mark I had before or pass it and get close to it. When I do the heptathlon, that's what I look at."
She scored over 800 points in both the hurdles, 200m, and high jump, and then finished off her day with a solid 2:24.18 in the 800m, giving her 768 points to close out the heptathlon.
Craig knew it wasn't the effort she wanted. But she knew she would get better.
Following her two-day run, AAU recognized her with the Joel Ferrell Award, annually honoring the top girls multis athlete at the Games.
"Today was really hard considering we were waiting long before events and tired throughout the day," she said. "To be able to work through that and accomplish that is a very big deal and a good accomplishment."
After a long two months, Craig is looking forward to the future.
"Just training hard and having the right mindset," she said. "And being optimistic and not pessimistic. That's not the way to look at things. You want to look at the bright side."
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Girls 9yo Triathlon: Tampa, Florida athlete A'Niya Carriera scored a 27-point victory over Detroit, Michigan's Cayla Hawkins, scoring 989 points. Carriera unleashed her best effort in the 200m, going 29.95 seconds -- she was the only athlete under 30 seconds.
Boys 9yo Triathlon: Jasen Johnson-Lockhart won three events at the AAU National Club Championships in early July, so it only made sense to pool all his talents for the triathlon at the AAU Junior Olympics. That's exactly what the Charlotte, North Carolina-area athlete did, winning with 644 points. An ever-improving runner, his best event was his last when he posted a leading 1:04.55. Jason Turner, of Detroit, Michigan, was second with 564 total points.
Girls 10yo Triathlon: Warner Robins, Georgia athlete Adrianna Haynes said she was motivated "to push for a win" with each ensuing event on the track and in the field. And that's what Haynes ultimately did, winning by a narrow margin (20 points) en route to 1,159 points. Haynes' work in the 200m, in a winning time of 28.61 seconds, did the trick and helped surpass Charlotte, North Carolina's Samaria Freeman, who at that point was No. 1. Freeman finished second with 1,139 points.
Boys 10yo Triathlon: Wayne Shanks, of Cypress, Texas, held the lead over Fayetteville, North Carolina's Tai Phillips heading into the last event of the day, the 400m, by just 17 points. And while Shanks had the best shot put of 29-2.25, Phillips would blast a 1:01.74 in the 400m to win the triathlon with 948 points. Shanks was second with 773.
Boys 11yo Pentathlon: Nathaniel Hewitt was impressive throughout his five events on Saturday and Sunday, scoring a winning total of 2,213 points. But it was his huge yield in the 80mH in 13.41 seconds -- scoring a leading 831 points -- that set the Upper Marlboro, Maryland athlete up for the rest of the multis event. He surpassed his second-place competitor, Quincy Wilson, and never looked back. Wilson finished with 2,008 points.
Girls 12yo Pentathlon: Shakayla Lavender ran away from her competition -- very literally -- on Sunday as she scored over 400 points better than second-place Keymani Dillingham across five events. Lavender, a native of Chesapeake, Virginia, scorched the competition with a blistering 11.99 second 80mH effort, picking up 1,152 points, then scored over 600 in both the high jump (4-11) and 800m (2:35.00) to finish out a thorough display. Lavender said afterward that coaches and family were her biggest inspiration.
Boys 12yo Pentathlon: Jonanthony Hall came away with an impressive victory, scoring 2,620 points as he dispatched second-place Alex Graham by nearly 200 points. Hall's best efforts came in the 80mH (783) and shot put (35-11.25), where he garnered the most points, though he said he finished "with heart" in the last lap of the 1,500m, posting a time of 5:17.60.
Boys 15-16 Decathlon: Tommy Christie held on for the decathlon title late, scoring just enough points to nudge past Bryce Kazmaier. Christie won with 5,427 points, beating out Kazmaier just over 100 points, and earned a big performance in the high jump, going 6-4.75 to earn 758 points.
Boys 17-18 Decathlon:
Girls 17-18 Heptathlon: Jaydea Carter remembers being third in the heptathlon a year ago. But in the final moments of the 800m on Sunday, all the Pembroke Pines, Florida resident could think is what it would be like to win. And that's what she did, scoring a total of 4,580 points, outlasting Brighton, Michigan's Lindsey Strutz by just 47 points. Carter's strongest showings came in the 200m (24.84) and 100mH (14.79), though she said she improved the most in the shot put (34-0.75) and javelin (78-9).
Girls 13yo Race Walk - Northridge, California's Reese Gentry won her third straight AAU Junior Olympic Games race walk title by an astounding three minutes on Sunday in 16:09.39. Tiarra Jackson, of Velocity Track Club in New York, and Sophia Rankin, of the Severn Highsteppers, New York, cracked the 20 minute mark to take second and third in the event.
Boys 13yo Race Walk: Texas Independent Lone Stars athlete Judah Edwards dominated his division in 17:41.77 -- it wasn't even close. Edwards was the defending champion in the event and would finish almost three minutes ahead of second place.
Girls 14yo Race Walk: The sisters from Elgin, Texas once again were the duo to beat, and it was Heather Durrant who won her second straight title in the 3,000 meter race walk in 17:26.86, while Hannah followed in 18:17.19. No other athlete was closer than a minute, and Heather held almost a minute lead on Hannah and nearly two minutes on her competitors.
Boys 14yo Race Walk: Virginia Elite Sports League's Marquis Phifer took home the title here by 15 seconds, closing in a winning time of 17:09.89 to edge Severn Highsteppers' Josiah Curry, who was second in 17:24.93.
Girls 15-16 Race Walk: Realsouth Track Club's Kalyn Gibbs was so happy, she barely had the words for her first AAU Junior Olympic Games win on Sunday. But the Miami, Florida-native earned it. She scored a winning time of 17:05.39, while second-place Shaiel Jones of Amp Athletics Track Club was second in 17:23.36.
Boys 15-16 Race Walk: Blue Thunder Track Club's Kevin Schweikert was downright unbeatable on Sunday, winning by exactly two minutes. He posted a winning time of 17:17.38. It was his third straight AAU Race Walk title.
Girls 17-18 Race Walk: Alief Clovers Track Club's Karla Funes clocked a 21:04.72 to win the 3,000m race walk by just over 30 seconds, beating second-place Kynslei Sims of the Cleveland Express Track Club. Funes' story goes deeper than her win, though, as she found track and field through an alternative school in Houston, Texas, and had only begun race walking for two years before her first gold medal. A recent graduate of Alief Hastings High School, Funes said she hopes to join the military and continue race walking in the future.
Boys 17-18 Race Walk: Jadon Davis scored a win in 15:26.15, beating second-place Kurtis Schweikert, who finished in 15:52.30.
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Monday kicks off a changing of the guard at the AAU Junior Olympic Games. There will be a series of 3,000 meter finals starting off at 8:00 AM. Track events will also include the 400 meter and 200 meter hurdles, the first round of the 800 meter run and the 200 meter dash. Field events will kick off with age group categories in the long jump, discus, shot put and javelin, the high jump and pole vault and many more events in the evening.
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TOP PERFORMER OF THE DAY
Insight: How can we not give this to a decathlete? The best athletes in track and field are well versed in nearly every event on the track and in the field. And this year's best decathlete produced a point total over 6,398 points ...in only his second attempt at the event. That's legit. So kudos.
William Ott, 17, Lakeland, Florida
100m: 11.27 (+1.3)
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INTERVIEW OF THE DAY
Karla Funes, Alief Clovers Track Club
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
On the 200m, the third and final event of the triathlon: