Emily Hill/Staff photo - Members of the E.R.I. Stars track team will compete in the New Orleans at the Real AAU Junior Olympics. From left, Alex Gonzalez, Alexus Giles, Ashlynn Giles, Kailey Bostic, Marika Brown, Alexis McCrary and Ashley Bennet. Not pictured is fellow teammate Bryant Johnson.
LITTLE ELM - It doesn't matter if a team is young, either in age and origin; it's the dedication, practice and camaraderie that can lead a team to victory, and one Little Elm team plans to do just that.
Little Elm track team E.R.I. Stars will be competing in the Real AAU Junior Olympic games July 31 to Aug. 6 in New Orleans, as state qualifiers for Texas. Teams from around the country will participate in the track and field competition to win the national titles.
Competing in the Junior Olympics are two 4x100 teams and two teams in sprint. Three individuals will run the 100-meter relay and one will compete in the 200-meter relay.
This is the first major competition for the team, which began just last year by coach Toni Francis when he decided to develop a program for children serious about track. When he started the team, only five signed up. Now, the team has 11 participants.
Team members said they weren't nervous about the big competition, although they never expected to make it this far. But to get to Louisiana, the team still needs more funding. All donations are tax deductible, and will help this team reach the competition to win the gold.
Francis, who has coached in professional athletics, started training the team in October 2010. The team continued to train from December to February until track season started at school. In May, the group picked up training for summer track.
"We are able to stay in track," Ashlynn Giles, a team member, said.
When the team competed in the Olympic Qualifier meet on July 1 in Keller, Texas, the team placed high in several events. Marika Brown placed first in the Girls 100-meter dash Intermediate Finals event and ninth in the Girls 200-meter dash Intermediate, to name a few. Kailey Bostic placed first in the Young Women 100-meter dash.
In the 4x100 event, one of the teams placed fourth in the finals.
The team agreed that the heat was the most challenging aspect of training and running, but they agreed upon one thing when it came to the easiest part of the program.
"Training with this group of people," Bostic said.
In the 15-16 age division, Alex Gonzalez, Brown, Brittany Richard and Giles will compete in the 4 x100 event. In the 17-18 age division, Ashley Bennet, Alexus Giles, Alexis McCrary and Bostic will compete. Bryant Johnson is another team member who will compete in the 100-meter relay.
To make a donation, make checks out to E.R.I. Stars and mail to E.R.I. Stars, c/o L. Gonzalez, 100 West Eldorado Parkway, Little Elm, TX, 75068.