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Going for gold
Local athletes qualify for AAU Junior Olympics
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Shot putter Sarah Herndon is preparing to compete in the AAU Junior Olympics in Tennessee later this month. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Coach Mays audio

    Dedication and hard work have paid off for Mahagony Lanier and Sarah Herndon, a pair of local track and field athletes who’ve qualified for the 2007 AAU Junior Olympics later this month.
    Both girls compete for Sprint South Track and Field, a nonprofit program designed to give local kids a positive outlet in life.
    Lanier, who specializes in the 100-meter dash, will be making her second straight appearance at the event, which will be held July 30-Aug. 4 at the University of Tennessee’s Tom Black Track in Knoxville, Tenn. A rising seventh grader at William James Middle School, Lanier advanced to the semifinals in 2006, her first year running competitive track.
    Herndon, a rising senior at Southeast Bulloch High, will compete in the shot put. This spring she set a new school record (36’1”) and earned fourth place at the Class AA state meet. It will be her first appearance at the Junior Olympics.
    Lanier ran the 100m in 13.49 seconds and Herndon recorded a throw of 33’11.5” at the Georgia AAU Region 3B Championships last month to qualify for the event.
    “We worked really hard to get this far, and we’re happy for the achievement,” said Herndon, who is looking forward to competing at the University of Tennessee’s track facilities.
    “It’s a big place to go to, and we are excited to make the trip,” she said.
    Sprint South’s founder and head coach Samose Mays hopes competing in a major-college venue at a young age will be a positive experience for his athletes.
    “(Herndon) is trying to improve her distances in the shot,” said Mays, a certified Level I USA Track and Field coach who holds the Statesboro High School record in the 300m intermediate hurdles (39.38). “She wants to go to college one day and get a scholarship, and qualifying for nationals at this point in her career is a big step towards that.
    “With Mahagony, the sky’s the limit as well. She’s a rising seventh grader, and she’s already ranked in the nation in the 100-meter dash. She could be a big-time Division I recruit one day.”
    The team is looking for sponsors to help fund the trip, and those interested can contact Mays at (912) 687-5644. A big key to success in Knoxville, Mays said, will be the girls’ ability to relax and have fun.
    “It’s an honor to qualify for the Junior Olympics, and (they’ve) just got to get there and feel like (they) belong,” he said. “I tell them all the time, ‘Work hard in practice. If you want to be successful, just take the things you do in practice to the meet.’ If they go up there, act like they belong, enjoy it and it’s a good experience, they may get up there and improve their times.”
    Although the competitive summer season is coming to a close, Sprint South is always looking for new members.
    The team, which was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation earlier this summer, will begin off-season conditioning shortly after school begins this fall. Sprint South aims to give kids an opportunity to showcase and improve their talent and increase their exposure.
    For more information, go to