As residents have been fixated on watching trampoline, diving, swimming, track and field and beach volleyball Olympic competitions, Mahwah kids were experiencing the real heat of competition.
Five members of the township’s rec track and field team returned last week from the Junior Olympics, held this year at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. According to township track commissioner Pete Cassotis, every Mahwah competitor came in 20th place or higher in at least one event.
“I sometimes think about going to the real Olympics one day,” Colette Petric, a 12-year-old who competed in the long jump and high jump, said. “This is a great experience because it gives you a taste for it. There are so many people there cheering you on, it makes the whole thing even more exciting.”
To compete in the Junior Olympics, Petric and her teammates had to finish in the top 6 in their respective events at a statewide meet and top 5 at a multi-state regional meet, both held earlier this year.
“This is the 11th year that we’ve had three or more kids qualify for the national competition,” Cassotis said. “We had 101 kids in the track program in Mahwah this year, and the great thing about it is it’s for everyone – from kids who are trying it out for the first time and doing it recreationally to kids who want to compete in the Olympics.”
“I was really proud of myself,” Sydney James, a 10-year-old who ran the 100M and 200M races in Maryland, said. “It’s a great experience because you learn never to give up, and to believe in yourself."
“You also get to meet a lot of new people,” Anna Morris, who is also 10, added. “And, you’re competing against the best in the country, so you learn a lot about yourself as a competitor.”
In addition to these three girls, who all competed in the Junior Olympics for the second year in a row, Mahwah kids Emily Spence and Michael Thurston also competed at the games.
Now that the athletes are back, many with medals for their finishes in the top 8, they say their attention is turned to the Olympic games in London.
“Of course we are rooting for the Americans in the Olympics,” James said. “Especially the track and field athletes. I love watching them compete in events that I competed in.”
Get more information about the Junior Olympics here.