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"I didn't know I was going that fast." -- Kayleigh Stargell
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GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA -- Fans at Aggie Stadium gasped and hollered when Kayleigh Stargell's time flashed up on the colorful stadium scoreboard.
"A new national record!" shouted the meet announcer, fueling spectators to rise to their feet and clap in amazement.
But the 13-year-old from Mableton, Georgia decked out in all-white remained cool as a cucumber as everyone around her celebrated. She had just broken the national record in the 200m hurdles for not the first, but the second time this week. Stargell's time of 26.84 on day four of the AAU Junior Olympic Games surpassed the record of 27.00 she set in the 200m hurdle prelims on Tuesday.
For Stargell, setting the new fastest American time the first time seemed to come easy. "I didn't know I was going that fast," said Stargell
Then to improve on the record yet again, she felt nothing less than proud. "I was happy with it," said Stargell.
And with a national record under her belt, Stargell isn't stopping there. She hopes to improve significantly on her 400m time and has future goals to earn a collegiate scholarship.
After her stellar record at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, it wouldn't be surprising to see Stargell break many more records for years to come on her way to reaching her collegiate-running dreams.
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Girls 13yo 1,500m: With 800 meters to go in the race, Westside Baptist Church Track Club's Kailey Littlefield surged into the lead and never looked back as she came away with the win in a fast time of 4:45.03. Delaware Elite Track Club's Sophia Holgado and San Antonio Swift Track Club's Caila Lyons finished second and third, the first two to cross the finish from a large, tight chase pack.
Boys 13yo 1,500m: It was a one-man race for most of the competition as Andruw Villa of TX Big Country Blaze lead by as much as 50 meters to earn the win in 4:19.75; Villa's winning time was just six seconds off of the national record set by Brandon Miller in 2015. New Orleans Metro Stars' Michael Vocke narrowly finished second ahead of Intensity Track Club's James Butler.
Girls 14yo 1,500m: Cha'iel Johnson (Miami Gardens Xpress) and Krianne McBride (Texas Thunder Track Club) ran stride-for-stride for nearly the entire race, and it came down the final 100 meters as Johnson slightly pulled ahead of the defending champion to win by just a half of a second. Both athletes created separation from the rest of the field early--they hit the opening 400 meter mark in a grueling time of 1:03. Despite the intense start, Rainn Sheppard (Jeuness Track Club) managed to stick near Johnson and McBride for the race's entirety and earned third place.
Boys 14yo 1,500m: In a relatively close race, defending champion Reese Vannerson of High Velocity Track Club managed to create enough of a gap between him and the other competitors to come out on top in 4:14.28. Haverhill Elite Track Club's Nathan Lopez and Hot Feet Track Club's Micah Blomker held on to place second and third.
Girls 15-16yo 1,500m: Micah Trusty (Infinity Track Club) successfully defended her championship from last year, leading wire-to-wire to win in a time of 4:41.71. Alicia Ruiz (Incredibles) tucked right behind Trusty for most of the race, but could not match Trusty final 100 meter kick and placed second.
Boys 15-16yo 1,500m: Competitors stretched all the way out to lane three down the final straightaway, but Maddon Muhammad (Charlotte Panthers) maintained the lead that he held for the entire race to win the Junior Olympic title in 4:02.41. First through third place were separated by less than a second thanks to strong finishing kicks from second place finisher Daniel Morales (Xtreme Force Track Club) and bronze medalist Matthew Fernando (Smyrna Elite Track Club).
Girls 17-18yo 1,500m: Kaycee Keller (Hill Country Comets Track Club) exhaustively fell to her knees as she crossed the finish line after running a grueling 1:14 over the last 400 meters to come from behind and win the event. Keller stayed comfortably in the chase pack for most of the race, but found another gear that none of her competitors could match down the stretch. Jennifer Ohlsson (Elite Performance XL) also had a strong finishing kick similar to Keller's, a kick that helped her finish second.
Boys 17-18yo 1,500m: In a fight to the finish, Elijah Bennett came out of nowhere to take the lead down the homestretch and shock the rest of the competition. Bennett ran 1:02 over the last 400 meters to edge out Transy East's Jackson Burnett.
Boys 15-16yo 400m Hurdles: In a classic photo-finish race, Tamaal Myers (Str8 Smokin Track Club) outleaned Bryce McCray (Greater Houston Track Club) at the line to win in 52.68 to McCray's 52.69. McCray got off to a fast start, making up the stagger early in lane 5, but Myers to his left in lane 4 caught McCray in the final 50 meters to win the title.
Boys 17-18yo 400m Hurdles: Durham Striders Track Club's Khaleb Mcrae sat in first heading into the final 200m turn and was able to hold onto his commanding lead down the homestretch to earn first place in the event in a new US #2 time of 51.47. Aj Hale moved up in lane eight to challenge Mcrae with one hurdle to go, but could not quite catch him at the finish and placed second.
Girls 15-16yo 400m Hurdles: Phenom Michaela Rose (Virginia Elite Sports League) made it look easy as she glided over the hurdles to win the Junior Olympic title in dominant fashion. Rose crushed the field by over two seconds, running 58.16 to secure her first win of the meet.
Girls 17-18yo 400m Hurdles: Paige Magee of Blue Thunder Track Club convincingly won the event by nearly a second, running a winning time of 1:00.81.
Girls 13yo 200m Hurdles: Kayleigh Stargell's record-breaking performance caught the eyes of all spectators at the AAU Junior Olympic Games on Tuesday.
Girls 14yo 200m Hurdles: The only athlete to break 27 seconds in the race, Akala Garrett of Purpose Driven NC Elite Track Club earned the win with a time of 26.86, just narrowly off of her personal best. In a tight race for second, Brittney Jennings of 4Life Track Club edged out Atascocita Titans Track Club's Lashavia Barclay to earn the silver medal.
Boys 14yo 200m Hurdles: It was Topeka Blazers Track Club's Jeremiah Smith who stole the show, finishing lengths ahead of the rest of the field to set a new national record in the event. Smith seemed like he was in another league as he got off to an explosive start and seemingly floated towards the finish--a perfect race execution that resulted in the new record of 24.10.
Girls 9yo Long Jump: Nadia Cohen's (Central Florida Gliders) opening jump of 13-1 held up through the later rounds, earning her the event title. Clarity Cargill finished closely behind Cohen in second place with a jump of 13-0.75.
Girls 9yo High Jump: By a margin of two inches, Nia Armstrong of Vast Track Club cleared 3-11.25 to win the competition over Evolution Track Club's Kendal Davis. Davis finished second on missed attempts, but three other girls also jumped 3-9.25 to have solid showings.
Girls 10yo Shot Put: Only half an inch separated first and second place, but Naysa Brewer of Jackrabbit Track and Field came out on top over Track Xplosion's Jacqueline Hamilton to win the competition; Brewer threw 27-7.5 to Hamilton's 27-7.25.
Boys 10yo Shot Put: Jordan Carraway won by over one foot in the event, recording a mark of 31-5.75. It was a close battle for second and third, as Jordan Dales (Winslow Elite Track Club) finished just three-quarters of an inch short of second place finisher Ty White (Greater Houston Track Club).
Girls 11yo Shot Put: Trailblazers Youth Athletic Ministry's J'Nia Simpson threw the shot nearly three feet farther than the rest of the competing athletes to win the event with her throw of 36-6.75.
Boys 11yo Shot Put: Jackson Cantwell of Blue Thunder Track Club was the only athlete to throw over 40 feet and he easily won the shot put event. All American Throwers Club's Xavier Muhammad and New Life Gliders' K'Lyn Curtis both threw over 38 feet to earn second and third places.
Boys 11yo High Jump: Jalen Lott (Desoto Swift Track Club) attempted to tie the national record of 5-2.25 and missed on all three attempts, but his final clearance of 5-1 was still enough to earn him a Junior Olympic title. His winning jump was three inches higher than second place finisher Leo Cauble (West Omaha Track Club) and third place finisher Griffin Schlenbecker (Flippen Flyers Track Club).
Girls 12yo Discus: Ayanna Hunt (Greenville Jets) fouled on half of her throws, but that didn't hamper her confidence going to the final round as she soared the shot put out a winning distance of 93-7. That mark slightly beat Chayanne Gordon's (Throwers Respect Track Club) early throw of 91-7; Gordon went on to finish second in the event.
Girls 12yo Long Jump: Elizabeth Dean smashed the national record in the event with a jump of 18-5.75 to win in jaw-dropping fashion. Tori Okorodudu of Conshohocken Electric Force Track Club also had a solid day, jumping 17-5.25 to place second.
Boys 12yo Long Jump: Three athletes jumped over 18 feet, but it was Jahsir McCarthy's (Mt. Airy Track Club) jump of 18-4.25 that won the overall event. Both Jonanthony Hall (Soca Speed Track Club) and Preston Johnson (Dragons Youth Track and Field Club) jumped 18-1 to finish second and third.
Girls 13yo Pole Vault: Above the Bar Track Club's Kourtney Rathke won the competition by a foot with her winning clearance of 10-5.25. Rathke was the only athlete to even attempt 10-5.25, and moved the bar up to 10-8 but was unable to clear the height.
Boys 13yo Javelin: Alex Bebermeyer (Johnson County Comets) narrowly came out with the win in the javelin with a throw of 127-0, just a few inches farther than second place finisher Logan Walters' throw of 126-9.
Boys 13yo High Jump: Javiono Howard of East St. Louis Greyhounds may have missed all three of his attempts at 5-8.75, but he was the only athlete to attempt and clear 5-7, a height that earned him a first place finish. Richard Grooms of Elite Skills Development Academy placed second with a height of 5-3 and Lightning Spikes Track Club's Keith Fowler cleared 5-1 to finish third.
Girls 14yo Pole Vault: With Rachel Homoly (KC Fire Track Club), Sky Schuller (Prime Time Elite Track Club), and Megan Kelleghan (Above the Bar Track Club) tied at 11-3.75 after all jumps had been taken, it came down to missed attempts to determine the winner. Homoly was crowned champion based on the technical notion, and Schuller and Kelleghan were awarded second and third place.
Boys 14yo Discus: Shinobu Hawk's (Virginia Elite Sports League) throw of 167-4 in the fourth round secured the win for him on day four of meet competition. Zachery Grace (KC Fire Track Club) threw 164-7 to finish second, and Drake Carlson (Precision Track Club) recorded a mark of 162-3 to grab third.
Girls 15-16yo Shot Put: Leading after the first round, Valadian Pallett (Magsis-Pallett Throwing Club) gradually increased her lead as the competition went on, culminating in a best throw of 41-5.75 in the last round to win the event. Logan Gaskins (Virginia Elite Sports League) threw over 39 feet to place second, and Sydney Freeman had a solid throw of 38-11.75 to finish third.
Girls 15-16yo Triple Jump: Kendall Jordan of Durham Striders Track Club eclipsed 40 feet to capture the win with a big personal best jump of 40-7.75. It was a tight competition for second and third place, with San Antonio Sprinters Elite's Taylen Wise jumping 38-8.75 for second and Leslie Manson reaching 38-5.5 for third.
Boys 15-16yo Shot Put: Adam Watkins smoked the competition by throwing 55-01 to win the championship title by nearly four feet. Kevin Adams II of Central Elite Texas Track Club also eclipsed the 50 foot mark with his second place throw of 51-3.5.
Boys 15-16yo Triple Jump: Johnny Brackins Jr.'s best jump came in the second round at 48-5.25 and that mark would remain on top for the rest of the competition, earning him the first place crown. Jaden Patterson of Greater Houston Track Club had a great early jump as well to finish second with a mark of 47-9.75.
Girls 17-18yo Discus: Midland Crusaders Track Club's Paige Low dominated the competition with a winning throw of 150-8. Low threw ten feet farther than second place finisher Teteateh Snoh of Triangle Champions, whose best throw came in at 138-9.
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TOP PERFORMER OF THE DAY
Becoming the second athlete at the meet to break a national record, Jeremiah Smith blew the competition away in the boys 14yo 200m hurdles to earn the best performance of the day. Smith's record-breaking time bested the second place finisher by more than a second, a dominant run that he made look easy.
Jeremiah Smith, 14, Topeka, KS
200m hurdles: 24.10
New national record
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INTERVIEW OF THE DAY
Cha'iel Johnson, Miami Gardens Xpress
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
On what she loves most about the AAU Junior Olympic Games
"I really love the sportsmanship and a lot of the athletes that come out here. They do great and they help push myself a lot harder, because without them, I don't think I'd be able to PR at all."
-- Miracle Price, 15, Philadelphia, PA
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The fun begins tomorrow with the always-electrifying 2000m steeplechase finals at 8:00 AM, followed by the finals of the 800m for all age groups at 9:30 AM. Preliminary rounds of the 200m, 80m hurdles, 100m hurdles, and 110m hurdles will come in the afternoon, as well as the 4x400m prelims at 4:15 PM for the 9-10 and 11-12 age groups. The older age groups will take center stage in the field tomorrow with athletes set to compete in the triple jump, discus, shot put, and turbo javelin in the morning and various other events throughout the day. Top performers scheduled to race include Michaela Rose in the girls 15-16yo 800m and John Castro of Puerto Rico in the boys 17-18yo 800m, both of whom could look to reset the national records in their respective events.