Las Vegas Elite Runners Give Their Best at the Region 15 Cross Country Championships
On November 24, 2019, the Las Vegas Elite Runners traveled to Escondido, California to participate in the USATF Cross Country Regional Championships. With a field of runners that included the very best from Las Vegas, San Diego and Los Angeles, our runners faced their stiffest competition of the year with a trip to the National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Madison, Wisconsin being the prize for a top 30 or lower finisher. Achieving this goal would not be easy because every runner that steps to the starting line believes they will be one of the 30 and will not concede a spot easily.
In the under 8 race, Roland Johns-Clemmons finished 36th, just missing qualifying for JO’s. This was an amazing feat considering he is only 6, started the season late, and initially couldn’t run more than a lap around the track. Roland exhibited the greatest improvement this year. Every week he did something that amazed us. His parents told us he loves to run and run he did. When tears ran down his face when he didn’t make JO’s, my heart hurt because Roland worked so hard. Our hope is that this disappointment will fuel improvement. If so, Roland will be a beast in the coming years. He has a dedicated support system in his family and an inner competitive strength that should help him get better and better.
Christoph Clemmons finished 41st in his race. Like his brother Roland, this was his first year running. While his races were a little up and down, Christoph improved gradually over the course of the season. Some days we would ask ourselves why Christoph isn’t running hard, then other days we looked on in amazement and ask ourselves where that came from. When Christoph decides to run, he does well. He is an intelligent kid that underestimates his running talent. He is still in that phase of his life where he is figuring out what sport he enjoys the most. Once he does, he will no doubt excel consistently. What I like most about Christoph is his honest, fun-loving and caring nature. For our team, he is a light of sunshine that good people have inside them that makes our world better.
In the 9-10 race, Jordan Gowdy finished 49th. Jordan brings everything a coach or club could ask of a runner in practice and in the classroom, where he is a straight A student. This year was a very odd year for Jordan. In one race, he fell and was injured after being in the lead group through 2/3’s of the race. In others, he has had stomach issues. Although it was a tough year, Jordan has another year in this age group to excel and improve his ranking. Jordan is an exceptional kid, outstanding teammate and talented runner that has a bright future ahead of him.
Lilianah Davis finished 56th in the 11-12 race. While this wasn’t a top 30 finish, Lili ran well and finished with a time of 13:03, which was a PR. Lili truly is a graceful, talented runner. When she practices hard, it translates to her races. What is most admired about Lili is that she performs above her norm in big races. Leading up to key races, she is more focused, more engaged and practices harder. If she can consistently keep this mindset more often, she will achieve sustained success.
Kaiyah Davis-Mitchell finished 6th in the 15-16 race and qualified for the Junior Olympics for a second consecutive year. Not bad for a middle distance sprinter. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Kaiyah, she runs cross country only to stay in shape for track. She doesn’t particularly like it, but she continues to run, nonetheless. What I admire most about Kaiyah is her mental toughness and focus. These traits allow her to block out distractions and run in any weather condition. I’ve seen her run in mud, snow, ice, rain and sub twenty degree conditions. Each time I have come away amazed. On this day, Kaiyah only had to worry about hills. She pushed herself to get through the race and not back off. What I liked most was seeing her run full speed down the final hill to the finish line and push herself to a new PR. That determination will continue and serve Kaiyah well in the future. Congratulations on qualifying once again for JO’s.
Due to injury or other reasons, Jeramiah Davis (13-14) and Janae Fields (U8) did not run at regionals, but both have showed tremendous promise during practice and are focusing their attention on the upcoming track and field season.
This year, I came away very proud of our young runner’s accomplishments. There is no substitute for experience in long distance running and that was one of our primary goals this year, along with gaining a love and appreciation for the sport. This was very evident between their first and last race, as we saw tears and fear change to confidence, enthusiasm, optimism and joy. I have to say goal accomplished as all our runners look to continue running in the future.