Six members of the local iSpeed Track Club are competing in the U.S. Track and Field Cross Country National Junior Olympics, which is being held this Saturday in Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque, NM.
They are: Adam Parrish, Ethan DeCrosta, Joey Gatti, Sam Casale, Emmanuel Key and Kayla Key. Ethan, at age 7, is the youngest local competitor making the trip. Additionally, another club member, Mikal Warfield-Payne, competed in the regionals held in November.
The iSpeed Track Club is a youth (ages 6-18 years old) track and field and cross country team for those ages 6 to 18 years old. About 90 percent of the athletes are from Woodland Hills School District, said Marion Key, who co-founded the group with head coach Emmanuel Key.
"We have a wonderful coaching staff that includes student interns who develop programs for us," Key said.
The track club, which has existed for four years, operates under the guidelines of the U.S. Track and Field (USATF) and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). The young athletes train on jumps, hurdles, and long and short running. They also do weight and endurance training.
"Our main goal is to introduce youth ages 6 to 18 to cross country, and track and field," Key said. "What we focus on is sportsmanship and confidence building. We look to their heart in practice—and also their attitude."
During the fall, the club members practice three days a week at Woodland Hills High School.
The members compete against other teams in Pittsburgh at different area parks. They can advance to the three-state regional competition, then onto the national event.
Two members of the club's first "graduating" class have moved on to college cross country—Hailey Shingler, who is at Coastal Carolina University in North Carolina, and Amber Key, who is at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
The club also has a program for adults, who can register to walk around the track while the young athletes practice. There are incentives to pursue the sport as a family, such as walking 1,100 miles through the "Three Rivers in the Bayou" program, the distance between Pittsburgh and New Orleans, a location of the national Junior Olympics.
The club also has an open and master's level program, enabling adults to compete in 5Ks and relays under the iSpeed name.
While one of the club's goals is to keep interest going in and help grow track and field/cross country participation, it also benefits students who might pursue other sports.
"The training we do actually helps with other sports the kids compete in," Key said.
For more information about the club or its programs, click here or call Marion Key at 412-404-8918.