Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

Champions elite excel

Special to Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: August 3, 2013 at 01:33 AM

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Kissimmee - In the prelude to the AAU Junior Olympics, Champions Elite took a few members of its track club and made the short trip to Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports for the 2013 AAU National Track and Field Championships from July 10-14. Against the backdrop of intense atmosphere and a field loaded with the nation's top track and field athletes, competition was grueling.

However, Avon Park's Champions Elite proved itself worthy of the big stage, as it had three athletes capture medals.

Leading the way for the Elite club was Jabari Knighten, who became the first National Champion Track and Field athlete for Champions Elite, capturing first in both of his events.

Knighten won the 800-meter in a blazing time of 2:19.86, making it look easy as he pulled away from the field down the stretch. On the next day, he returned to run the 1500m, and in a very competitive race, was able to hold on for the gold, finishing with a personal best of 4:43.59. Knighten's time was just two seconds shy from setting the national record.

Knighten, 10, who is gaining national attention from many of the track and field constituent's around the world, knows that he will have to put on one more outstanding performance as the season winds down. His next competition will be at the 2013 Junior Olympics in a few weeks. The field will be deep, as it includes last year's 800m and 1500m record breaking champion, Missouri's Brandon Miller.

Not to be overshadowed by Knighten, Zoe Wortinger, a newcomer to track and field, complimented Knighten's afternoon with a bronze medal finish in the 1500m with a personal best time of 6:03.69. Wortinger has taken the track and field world by storm, finishing in the top three of every event she has competed in this season. Pretty remarkable, considering she initially signed up just to train and practice with Champions Elite. But after a few seasons, Wortinger, along with her parents, fell in love with the sport and decided to join the club.

Wortinger captured another medal in the 800m with another personal best time of 2:58.91. Although she finished in 8th place, she received a medal because on the National Championship and Junior Olympics circuit, the top eight runners receive a medals due to the field being so competitive.

Wortinger is poised to continue her success and said she is looking forward to her first ever Junior Olympics.

Wauchula's Dylan Davis would round out the medal finishes for Champions Elite. After finishing in 10th in the 1500m in the 2012 Junior Olympics in Houston, Dylan was determined to finish in the top eight after just missing out on earning a medal in last year's race.

And he bounced back this year, finishing 7th in the 800m with a time of 2:34.88 among a very competitive pool of runners. Davis, who is in his third year of a running for Champions Elite, has shown major gains every year, capturing medals in most of his events.

Davis also competed in the 1500m, where he finished 10th. Like Wortinger, Davis said he is also excited about making his second appearance in the 2013 Olympic Games later this summer. Davis will compete in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m events.

Champions Elite also had solid performances by Chandler Gowan, Warren Buckner, Savannah Oldfield, Terrance Butler, Brian Dixon and Montrae Braswell. Although these talented athletes fell short of their goal of winning a medal at the National Championships, they all proved they are indeed Elite and able to compete with anyone in the nation.

Gowan, Oldfield, Dixon, along with Andre Wilson, Jalen Knighten, and Dah'Quan Braswell all qualified a few weeks ago at Jacksonville's national qualifier and will be making the trek up to Detroit to compete in the Junior Olympic Games.

As a small town club, Champions Elite is unique, placing runners in the 10 of most events, which is unusual as many of the competitors come from bigger cities. The club is pleased with everyone's performances, especially those in their first year of running.

As each athlete looks to continue their success in the last meet of the season at the Junior Olympics, the Avon Park based club has proven all year that its runners are indeed elite.

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