Suns to represent Valley at Junior Olympics

July 19, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

For a group of Imperial Valley track and field athletes it is one thing to suit up in their respective high school's team colors and compete in a local track meet but it is another thing to represent the entire Valley on a national level.

On July 30, 16 local athletes will put aside school rivalries and stand united as members of the Imperial Valley Suns track and field team. The Suns will go to Norfolk, Va., to represent the Valley in the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics.

"For me it feels real good to represent the Valley," said 17-year-old Jarrell Henderson, a senior at Central Union High School in El Centro. "I think it's better representing the Valley than it would be somewhere like (Los Angeles) or a big city like that that people already know."

This is Henderson's third trip to the Junior Olympics after competing his freshman and sophomore years in high school. He is the oldest of the local athletes and his experience has put him in a leadership role.


Henderson, who will compete in the young men's division in the high jump and 100-meter dash, said while most people outside Southern California have never heard of the Imperial Valley, he thinks faring well at the Junior Olympics will give local athletes more recognition.

"I'm not going in there with a chip on my shoulder, but I do want to prove myself to everybody out there and just represent the Valley," said Henderson. "Hopefully I can do well and bring something back, not just for me but for the whole Valley."

While all athletes competing are representing the Valley, some find it harder to do so because of lack of support.

To pay for travel expenses each athlete was asked to raise $100, but total cost is about $550. Total cost for the entire group is near $9,000, but only $5,000 has been raised.

Team members said they went door to door and to local businesses asking for donations but often were rejected.

"It is kind of discouraging because you go to these businesses and tell them that you're going to represent the Valley and they won't really even listen to you," said 13-year-old Aletta Black, who will compete in the youth class in the discus, shot put and triple jump. "Something like that makes it difficult."

Said Black's sister, 14-year-old Jennifer Black: "It's kind of sad that we're not really getting that much support. I mean, we're going to have to have a car wash in San Diego to try to raise some money because people down here won't help us."

Both girls said they are still going to go into the Junior Olympics and represent the Valley as best they can in their first national competition.

Jennifer Black, a sophomore at Southwest High in El Centro, will compete in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles and high jump in the intermediate class.

Said Michelle Black, Jennifer and Aletta's mother and the Suns' assistant coach: "I think it's great for these kids to go out there and compete. No matter how they do, they can come back and say that they at least competed on a national level. They're not just going out there for themselves, but they're also going out there to represent the entire Imperial Valley."

Those interested in helping the Suns can call 353-6641.

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