As the old saying goes, you better start young.
Johnson City’s AAU “Speed Freaks” track team was founded in 2019 and played three indoor competitions before COVID-19 closed the first outdoor season.
“We started with four athletes and now we have grown to 15 athletes and it counts,” said East Tennessee State program director and assistant track coach Hassaan Stamps. “Michael Lockhart is the head coach. Our assistant coaches are Anthony Stockton and Amber Abel.
“The goal is to increase the level of competition and personal experiences in the sport of indoor and outdoor athletics. Our motto is “Athletics is our ministry”.
The team will travel to Humble, Texas for the upcoming AAU Junior Olympics in August. For youth athletics, the Junior Olympics are the country’s premier event, with more than 1,000 participants each year.
The Speed Freaks have participants aged 10-18 and the coaching staff believe that the fact that children see and face quality opponents early in their careers is an invaluable experience.
“We want athletes to experience track and field outside of eastern Tennessee so they can see the level of track and field that exists in other parts of the country,” Stamps said. “We hope they take these experiences back to their respective middle and high school teams to encourage their teammates and coaches to raise their level of expectation when it comes to commitment and performance.”
At the regional meet in Knoxville, the Speed Freaks qualified eight athletes for the Junior Olympics. That’s not too bad for a program that went to the regional competition for the first time.
And it’s not in one specific area that the Speed Freaks thrived – they got kids to qualify in everything from heptathlon to distance events and everything in between.
Nate Powell (400 meters hurdles), Abbey King (high jump and heptathlon), Haley Kells (triple jump and heptathlon), Lauren Yobst (800 and 1500), June Copp (800), Mercy McGann (800 and 1500), Niyah Jones (400 and long jump) and Addy Hight (100) will all be on their way to Texas in a few weeks.
A good chunk of the athletes who have qualified for the Junior Olympics are part of the Liberty Bell team, which bodes well for Science Hill in the near future.
“We are very grateful to the parents and corporate sponsors – TrackBarn, Portobello’s Italian Bistro and Go Burrito,” Stamps said. “Without their support, we would not have been able to help some of the less fortunate children.
Stamps pointed out that the reason they call themselves “Speed Freaks” is because they embrace the weird, the unconventional and the unknown.