Two Grant County youth athletes, Mason Morris and Anna Jacobs, qualified for the July 23-29 National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.
The event, sponsored by USA Track and Field, will be held at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro.
Morris, 14, who will be a freshman at Grant Union Junior-Senior High School this fall, placed first in the triple jump (40-3.5) and second in the long jump (18-4) at the July 5-8 Junior Olympic Region 13 Meet in Bend.
“Going in to nationals, he is seeded third in triple jump and 15th in long jump,” said his coach Sonna Smith.
Morris has opted out of taking the trip to Greensboro, but he said it was “pretty cool” to rank well nationally. This is Morris’ first year in the sport.
He had some training from Grant Union jump coach John Houk last spring as an eighth-grader on the junior high team.
When Houk became ill, Morris continued learning from coach Smith and teammates.
He and his family, including his mom Sophia Morris, moved to the area in April, and since there was no opportunity for baseball, his usual spring sport, he decided to try track and field. Mason said he caught on easily, and he’s enjoyed it.
“It’s more of an independent sport, and I made new friends,” he said. “It’ll be fun to get back to it.”
Morris also competed well in the 200-meter dash, javelin, triple jump and the 4x100 with Justin Hodge, Daniel Henry and Dylan Clark at Grant Union.
Jacobs, 8, will be in Lorie Croghan’s third-grade class at Prairie City School this fall.
She qualified at regionals with a third-place finish in the long jump (9-4.5). Jacobs expected to know where she stands in the national rankings past press time.
She is planning to attend the event with her mom, Jenny Jacobs, who is also her coach.
When she started practicing long jump last year, Anna could jump 8 feet.
This year, she’s hit marks of 10 and 11 feet in practice.
“My mom did long jump when she was in high school, so she’s teaching me,” Anna said. “It’s just kind of fun because you meet new people.”
Anna also enjoys the 400- and 100-meter dashes.
She’s looking forward to nationals and has plans to visit a roller coaster park with her mom during the trip.
Jacobs’ mom is starting an Eastern Oregon track and field club next spring for Prairie City and John Day youth, ages 8-18.
She imagines most participants would be elementary and junior high students with community members and parents who specialize in events helping coach the youth.
If there is enough interest, she would schedule four or five competitions at Track Town youth league meets and USATF meets to help expose kids to track and field.
Jenny said the competitions are fun and exciting.
“Big city meets have a totally different atmosphere,” she said. “The more you can expose your kids to a high-level competition situation, the more apt they are to rise to the occasion. It will help them flourish in their sports career.”
The goal would be to eventually host a Track Town event locally.
Anna likes the idea of the local club.
“Practicing by myself is boring, so having other kids compete with me would be fun,” she said.
For more information about the track club, email Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also competing at the regional meet were Trinity Hutchison, who will be a Grant Union senior this fall, who placed 10th in triple jump with a mark of 33-3.5, and Jordan Hall, who will be a Grant Union sophomore, who placed ninth in the triple jump at 37-6.5 and 13th in 110 hurdles at 18.56.