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"I'll accept first. I'm happy with what I did." -- Bryan Hailey
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Just don't lose.
"I was going for the national record," Hailey said.
For most of the 12yo 3,000m race on, which came on day three of the AAU Junior Olympic Games, Gammage pushed the pace and led convincingly, but Hailey remained calm and stayed closely behind. But Hailey wasn't new to this type of race pressure on the national stage--he won the boys 11yo 3,000m at the Games just last year in Des Moines, Iowa.
And sure enough, as the two came up on the final 200m, Hailey found another gear, a skill he credits to the various speed and strength workouts he ran in preparation for the important race.
"We've been doing a lot of speed, getting our speed up for that last 200," he said.
The crowd at North Carolina A&T's Aggie Stadium roared as fans watched the 11-year-old slingshot around Gammage and race against the clock down the final straightaway. The stadium announcer emphatically informed the audience that Hailey was in reach of a new national record.
As Hailey crossed the finish, spectators quickly turned to the stadium scoreboard to see if he had indeed met his goal.
That was the time displayed on the scoreboard next to Hailey's name. His time came in less than two seconds off of the 12yo 3,000m record of 9:40.80 set in 1987. But Hailey didn't let his near-record get him down--he left the competition feeling nothing less than proud of his efforts.
"I'll accept first," Hailey said. "I'm happy with what I did."
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Girls 11yo 3000m: After starting off at a modest pace, Virginia Kraus of AOC Track Club worked her way into the lead with about 1,200m to go in the tight race and came away with the win in a time of 11:21.97. Rocky Mount Parks & Rec's Kennedy Turrentine finished just a few seconds behind Kraus in 11:25.01 after both starting and finishing with fast 400m splits.
Boys 11yo 3000m: Kaleb Wilson of Green Mile Runners dominated from start to finish to secure the win in 10:19.14, more than 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Aiden Fitzgerald of BeastMode. Ann Arbor Track Club's Kamari Ronfeldt improved on his seed time by nearly a minute to grab third place from section two of three.
Girls 12yo 3000m: The Camp's Sahar Victoria destroyed the competition en route to a win in 10:39.39. A fast last at the 1,200 meter mark helped Victoria create significant separation between her and second-place finisher Payton Drumwright of Philly Factor Track Club.
Boys 12yo 3000m: The crowd roared at Aggie Stadium as fans watched Bryan Hailey of TX Big Country Blaze catch Miami Gardens Xpress' Joshua Gammage from behind in the last 100m to grab the win in a near-record time of 9:42.51. Hailey's mark was just off the age group national record of 9:40.08 set back in 1987. Both Hailey and Gammage finished nearly 40 seconds ahead of the next best finisher thanks to a quick first 600m that left their competition in the dust.
Girls Shot Put 8-under: A late round throw of 24-3.5 helped Carter Crayton finish on top of the podium in the event. Both Magdalena Kandt (Magsig-Pallett Throw Club) and Reign Green (Camden Track Club) had solid first throws, but could not beat Crayton's mark in the later rounds.
Girls 9yo Shot Put: A stellar final throw was just the icing on the cake for Tri-City Relays' Laila Jones as she led the event from start to finish. Jones' winning throw of 29-2.5 stood out among marks set by the rest of the field; her throw was eight feet longer than that of runner-up Lauren Augustin of Blue Devils Track Club.
Girls 10yo High Jump: Samaria Freeman's clearance of 4-5 bested the rest of the competition significantly and helped her capture a Junior Olympic title. The young athlete from Carolina Blaze Youth Development beat out Mia Schuller of Prime Time Elite and Kenzie Crooke of Soca Speed Track Club to secure the win.
Girls 11yo Discus: J'Nia Simpson of Trailblazers Youth Athletic saved the best for last in the discus competition, winning the event with her final throw of 85-4. Greater Houston Track Club's Logann Edwards also had a strong last throw, but could not match Simpson's performance; yet Edwards couldn't have been happier with her performance, having just picked up discus for the first time.
Boys 12yo High Jump: Team Quest's Kingston Williams and Desoto Swift Track Club's Andre Pentecost Jr. finished competition dead even at 5-1, but Williams took the win over Pentecost based on number of missed attempts.
Girls 13yo Javelin: Just one inch separated first and second place in favor of Track Xplosion's Moriah Evans, who nearly edged out competitor Samantha Franklin by one inch. Evans threw 110-6 in the opening round to catapult her into first, and that throw would hold up for the remainder of the event.
Boys 13yo Discus: Tied with Carolina Roadrunners' Daniel Perkins going into the final round, Darion Drye of Salisbury Speedsters Elite improved on his best throw of the day by almost 11 feet to surpass Phillips with a winning mark of 154-2. Blues Track Club's Michael Phillips Jr. threw 147-5 in the last round to move into second place.
Boys 13yo Pole Vault: Sawyer Guillaume opened up with a clearance of 9-10 and never looked back as he went on to win the event convincingly with a height of 10-10.
Girls 14yo Shot Put: LC Express' Carlie Weiser threw just short of her nation-leading age group mark in the event to take the win at 50-8.25. Her winning throw put her a foot farther than second place finisher Andrea Watson of International Elite, who threw an enormous PR to secure the silver.
Boys 14yo Shot Put: Alex Sohn of Central Illinois Track Club led from the first throw and easily captured the event title with a throw of 54-2.75.
Girls 14yo Long Jump: In a close competition separated by less than an inch, Jordyn Taylor barely bested Genesis Dixon of Missouri Elite Sports Club to grab the win. Taylor's jump of 17-11.75 in the fifth round beat Dixon's by just a quarter of an inch, a jump that put her in first and stood through the sixth and final round of the event.
Boys 14yo Long Jump: BeastMode's Hunter Moddon jumped an impressive mark in the final round of competition, but it was not enough to unseat Team Elite Track Club's Deandra Burns as the winner. Burns' winning jump of 21-6 puts him atop of the AAU Club rankings for his age group, and Moddon's mark of 21-4.75 bumps him to US #2 for 13-14yo boys.
Boys 14yo Pole Vault: Three boys in the competition cleared 11-3.75: Miami Gardens Xpress' Jason Olivera Jr., Parker Holldorf, and Swim Vault Club's Grayson Smith. But after all three failed to vault 11-9.75, Olivera earned first place based off of misses. Holldorf was awarded second place and Smith finished third.
Boys 15-16yo Javelin: A great first throw from Ultimate Speed Academy's Malcolm Harvey helped him earn the title in the throws event. Max Blaufuss did just the opposite of Harvey--he had a big last throw to secure his second place finish.
Girls 15-16yo High Jump: In flight 2 of 3, Jamora Horace of Xpress Track Club jumped 5-1 to beat out all of the athletes in the later flight to win the competition. Camden Pal Track Club's Tierra Hooker just missed surpassing Horace's mark in flight 3, jumping half an inch shorter to place second.
Girls 17-18yo Long Jump: Jackrabbitt Track and Running Club's Lashanti Williams eclipsed the 20-foot mark for the first time to take home an AAU Junior Olympic title with a jump of 20-3. Runner-up Kennedy Jackson of Michigan Accelerators Track Club just missed hitting 20 feet with a distance of 19-9.65, and national jumps phenom Morgan Smalls of Carolina Allstars Track Club finished third.
Boys 17-18yo Long Jump: Both Marquise Kinley's (Cky Heat) and Christian Lewis' (Lexington Blazin Cats) best jumps came in the final round, but it was Kinley who came out on top with a jump of 24-4.5. Lewis' jump of 23-11.5 in the last round bumped him up from third place to second.
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TOP PERFORMER OF THE DAY
It's an impressive feat to surpass a national record, especially in the prelims when athletes are usually focused on advancing to the finals. Full Throttle Elite's Kayleigh Stargell did just that, breaking the 13yo 200 meter hurdle record to earn the top performance of the day. Stargell crushed the previous time of 27.24 set in 2007. We'll look to see if Stargell can improve on her new record when she takes the track for the finals on Tuesday.
Kayleigh Stargell, 13, Mableton, GA
200m hurdles (prelims): 27.00
New national record
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INTERVIEW OF THE DAY
Sahar Victoria, The Camp
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
On finishing second in the Girls 11yo Discus
"I'm here today. Some people aren't able to be here, and I should be grateful because there's some people out there that don't even have a medal and would like to be in my position right now. We've got to just keep chasing our dreams."
-- Logann Edwards, 11, Houston, TX
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A slew of finals are in store for Tuesday at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, starting with the 1,500m at 8:00 AM. The finals of the 400m hurdles and the 200m hurdles will begin at 11:00 AM, followed by the 100m prelims and the 400m semifinals to conclude the day. Field action will begin in the morning with age group competition in the long jump, discus, and shot put, followed by other age group categories and events as the day goes on. Look out for middle distance runner Michaela Rose of Virginia Elite Sports League -- she'll vie for a national record in the girls 15-16yo 400m hurdles -- and young stars Krianne McBride and Cha'iel Johnson. They'll go head-to-head in what could be a classic in the girls 13yo 1,500m.