Track club leads to national exposure, scholarships
July 25, 2005
Albany- Tuesday, a group of students from South Georgia will head to Indiana to compete in the National Junior Olympics for track and field. They will go head-to-head with more than 6,000 of the best youth runners in the country.
It's an opportunity many would not have if it weren't for Ruff Riders, an intensive summer training program.
In a region known for it's football and basketball players, the Ruff Riders track team is making it's mark.
"The high school season isn't but two months or maybe a month and a half of track and field and at that time kids don't really develop," says Coach Paul Jones.
So, as soon as school is out the intensive track season begins.
"They want to be here every day. Once they find out hey man it ain't no two meets and it's over, now they are finding out man this is for real," says Jones.
It's so real the runners, who start as young as six years old, practice twice a day every day in the South Georgia heat.
"It's like a whole new level of training," says Cheris Fletcher.
But, the training gives the team members opportunities they don't get during the school year like competing in the National Junior Olympics.
"Once you go back to high school it's like nothing for you. You don't get nervous during the race," Fletcher says.
"This is a very cohesive team. You do what you have to do. The coach is very nice, he's good, he's stays on us all the time and makes us focus on handling our race and competing well," adds Estella Moore.
The runners have done so well that in it's six-year history, Ruff Riders has produced 14 runners who have competed in college, some receiving full scholarships.
"Ruff Riders has taught me that track is more than a game. It's a lifestyle. You have to be very dedicated to do track because it takes up a lot of your time and strength," says Watts.
When the team isn't on the track, they are out in the community raising funds to offset the cost of their meets, something their coach hopes changes in years to come.
"I want to see them with the full support. Especially going to the Juniors, they don't have to be out practicing and begging for money. I just want them to be able to train and go compete," says Jones.
For now, the team is focused on showing Southwest Georgia and the rest of the nation that team Ruff Riders is a force to be reckoned with.
Jones says many of the Ruff Riders team members are already ranked among the top ten in the state or top 20 in the country for their age class and specific events.
For more information about the Ruff Riders Track Club contact Darryl Benton at 229-371-0912.