Lightning strikes on track, field for successfulThunder team
The Kansas Thunder rolled into Kansas University's Memorial Stadium earlier this month to compete in the USATF Region Nine Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.
Region Nine includes Arkansas, the Missouri Valley (the event host), Oklahoma and the Ozarks.
The Thunder is a USATF track team led by new Eudora coach Darin Schmitz. The team returned with four region champions, a region runner-up, and a master's clean sweep.
"All together we did really, really well," Schmitz said.
That is an understatement -- especially from Schmitz. The Thunder headman participated as both coach and competitor. As a coach, his girls netted five medals. As a competitor, Schmitz ran away from the men's open division. He claimed gold in the hammer, discus (41.50m), javelin (39.82m) and shot put (12.45m).
Included in the medal-mania was Eudora standout Carrie Lister. The Cardinal star competed well in three events, taking the silver in the javelin.
Lister's only real fault was that she lives in Kansas, a problem when the nation's top-rated javelin thrower Rachel Talbert also resides in the Sunflower State.
Talbert took all three throwing events -- the javelin (11.60m), discus (40.40m) and shot put (11.60m).
Lister is no slouch herself, ranking No. 22 in the nation. She competed in the 15- and 16-year-old intermediate division. Her second-place finish in the javelin (30.36m) was well ahead of third-place Liz Benson's 21.72m. She finished fourth in the discus (30.54m) and fifth in the highly competitive shot put (9.21m). Lister missed a bronze in the shot by a mere .65 meters.
"Every single one of them stepped up to the competition," Schmitz said. "As a coach I'm obviously very, very proud. The kids put a lot of effort into this and it's good to see that effort pay off."
Sparkling under Schmitz's tutorship were his proteges from De Soto -- the Grizzle's. Schmitz has coached the girls for the past three years.
The sisters put on an exhibition.
Dominique Grizzle competed in the 10-and-under bantam division. The youngest of the Grizzles ranks in the top 10 nationally in each event. She took first in both the shot put and javelin. Dominique did so in impressive fashion. Her shot put of 7.23 meters just edged Heidi Brown's 6.62 meters. Her javelin throw of 20.92 meters, however, blew away Erin Tilley's 17.40 and nearly doubled fifth-place Katelyn Lang's 12.20.
Veronica Grizzle competed in the 11- and 12-year-old midget division. Veronica took the javelin title with 29.42 -- a mark over two meters better than runner-up Heidi Brown (27.08) and an amazing double of fifth-place Nychole Brown (14.60). Veronica also ranks in the top 10 nationally in her signature event.
The elder Grizzle, Roxanne, rocked the competition. Her 31.00 meter javelin throw easily bettered Jenna Stremel's 27.34 and again nearly doubled the fifth-place thrower. Roxanne is ranked fourth nationally.
"It's almost like watching my daughters," Schmitz said of the Grizzles. "I'm as proud as their parents."
All four girls qualified to compete in the 2003 USATF National Junior Olympics in Miami-Dade. The 37th annual event is from July 29 to Aug 3 at the 275-acre Tropical Park Stadium. The meet includes more than 65,000 competitors from the nation's 15 regions.
"There will be people throwing and competing whose names you'll be hearing in the future," Schmitz said. "You'll see future Olympians...the future of track and field."
The Grizzles are expected to attend the prestigious event but Lister is anticipated to wait until next year.
"Carrie would like to get another year under her belt," Schmitz said. "This is her first year competing in the summer. She has done really well for herself as a whole. Her future is very bright."
Schmitz is also expected to sit this one out. He took four gold medals in Lawrence despite a bulged disc and a torn muscle in his back. Although the injury can't stop him, his wife can.
"I promised my wife that this is it for the season," Schmitz said. "I'll call it a season and focus on my role as coach. It's a great role. I love doing it; especially with athletes like these girls."