If the start of the Minooka Mustangs track and field program is any indication, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the track and field circles for quite some time.
The Mustangs have qualified nine athletes in a total of 12 events to the AAU National Junior Olympics, to be held in Des Moines, Iowa from July 26 to August 2.
At the AAU regionals held at Northern Illinois University two weeks ago, Ryan Bilyeu won gold in the triple jump for 15-16-year-old boys to qualify, while Jordan Freese won gold in the 800-meter run for 14-year-old boys and also qualified in the 1500-meter run. Aaron Arroyo was the silver medalist in the 400-meter dash for 14-year-old boys and Max Krause won silver in the 80-meter hurdles for 12-year old boys.
Abigail Paul and Kelsey Niemann both qualified in the javelin throw, while Chris Hopkins qualified in the 100-meter dash for 17-18 year-old boys. Justin Wolz qualified in the decathlon for 17-18 year-old boys, and Jasmine Gragg qualified for the heptathlon, high jump and triple jump in the 15-16 girls division.
Mustangs coach John Gragg says it takes a lot of talent and work to be able to go to the Junior Olympics.
"It is almost the equivalent of older athletes reaching the Olympic Trials," he said. "For a first year club to have so many athletes going to the Junior Olympics is amazing. It says a lot about the school programs in the area and how good the coaching is that they get at school."
With all the athletes that qualified for AAU Junior Olympics the Mustangs decided to concentrate on that and only sent Hector Ramos to the USATF Regional trials. He won bronze medals in both the 200 and 400-meter dashes for 12-year-old boys to qualify to the USATF National Meet to be held in Humble, Texas later this month.
The Minooka Mustangs are thankful for the businesses that were sponsors this year, such as Graf Speed Enhancement, Minor Chiropractic and Newsome Physical Therapy, that helped to make this season possible.
"We hope that in the coming years we will be able to do even more for young athletes in the area as more businesses invent in the program," Gragg said.
Gragg also indicated that there are many other athletes from the community that run with other clubs that qualified for the Junior Olympics.
"Janile Rogers from Minooka Community High School won gold at regionals in the 17-18 women’s long jump to qualify, and I think her relay teams are going as well," Gragg said. "Brandon Adams from Minooka Junior High won gold in the 100, 200 and long jump at both the AAU regionals and USATF regionals to qualify.
"I believe that Ashleigh Wilson and Taylor Prieboy from MCHS are also qualified in multiple events."
Wilson has qualified in both the 400-meter dash and 800-meter run in the 17-18 year-old girls division, while Prieboy is in the same age group and has qualified in the long jump, 100 hurdles and 400 hurdles. Rogers has qualified as an individual in the long jump and the 100-meter dash.