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Top junior Olympic hopefuls converge on Mill Creek track

Photo: David McGregor. Dorian Maddox leads his heat in the 100-meter hurdles during the youth boys pentathlon at the Region 3 USA Track and Field Junior Olympics on Thursday at Mill Creek High School.

Photo: David McGregor. Dorian Maddox leads his heat in the 100-meter hurdles during the youth boys pentathlon at the Region 3 USA Track and Field Junior Olympics on Thursday at Mill Creek High School.

HOSCHTON -- Pop-up tents were scattered throughout Mill Creek Community Stadium on Thursday.

The small amount of shade was the only relief for spectators from the heat at the USATF Region 3 Junior Olympics track and field championships.

"I'm trying to even out my tan," D.C. Speed coach Edgar Sams said with a smile. "It's hot and humid."

Sams' team is from Washington, D.C., and was one of dozens at the meet, which is expected to draw more than 10,000 people during the four-day event.

Sams brought 58 athletes from various age groups and several competed in Thursday's heptathlon, pentathlon and decathlon events.

"I love this facility. It's a nice size and the track is very nice," Sams said.

The top individuals and relay teams from the regional will qualify for the National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championship at Wichita State University on July 26-31.

D.C. Speed had to hold multiple fundraisers like a car wash, poker tournament and pizza night to raise money for this weekend's trip. The team drove 11 hours on charter buses and parents car pooled. The team brought 40 athletes to the regional last year and had eight qualify. Sams his hoping to double that this weekend.

"I'd like to get 15 to nationals this year," Sams said. "Regions is where you want your kids. It's a great end to the season."

The Region 3 meet has athletes from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Maryland.

Snellville-based Runnin Mustangs was one of the local teams at the meet.

"I like this meet because it has more officials," coach Ken Dennard said. "It makes the meet run smoother."

Dennard's team is in its second year and he brought seven athletes -- including his three children Antuane, Andre and Alitza Dennard. Antuane, 11, competed in the midget pentathlon on Thursday.

"I have to know when I'm talking to him as a coach and when I take my hat off and I'm his father," Dennard said.

Thursday's first day of the meet was fairly quiet. That will change today when the qualifying for the popular 400-meter relay takes place. Saturday will start the qualifying in the field and running events. The finals are scheduled for Sunday.

"Today is the easy day," Mill Creek coach and meet director Rik Moore said.

Several of Gwinnett County's top high school athletes will be in action this weekend, including Matt Morris (Peachtree Ridge), Justyn Shackleford (Berkmar), Jasmine Abrams (Grayson), Jackqueline Obi (Grayson), Elexis Guster (Berkmar), Sonikqua Walters (Peachtree Ridge), Kamila Bakari (Norcross) and Sydney Williams (Collins Hill).