After a long 11 months, Velocity Striders head coach Michael Johnson wanted his team to finish the summer strong.
The Amateur Athletic Union running team, comprised mainly of Columbia County athletes, did just that at the AAU Club Nationals from July 10-14 in Orlando, Fla.
And now they can call themselves national champions.
Facing AAU teams from across the nation, Darius Watkins (Grovetown High School), Jeremy Harden (2013 Greenbrier graduate), Ryan McCain (North Augusta) and Warren Coombs (Greenbrier) took the top spot in the men’s 17-18 4x100 meter relay in 40.88.
“Those boys winning the 4x100 relay to be national champions was huge,” said Johnson. “They were 5/100 of a second from breaking the national record. We probably would have broken it but our third leg on the relay had the 400 finals right before the 4x100 and he was dog tired when he ran.”
The third leg, McCain, finished eighth in the 400 with a 49.77.
The sprint medley relay – consisting of two 200s, a 400 and an 800 – was good to both the men’s and women’s teams. The men, Harden, Watkins, Coombs and Elias Madrid (Greenbrier) finished second in the nation (3:33.5) while the women’s team of Nouri Moore (Greenbrier) Heather Hammett (Lakeside), Ashlan Rosier (Lakeside) and Tyson came in third (4:28.20).
Watkins and Harden also made their individual marks in the 100, finishing fourth (11.02) and fifth (11.06), respectively.
During the 4x100, Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA 200 champion Watkins strained his hamstring and sat out the 200 even though he had finished sixth in the qualifier.
“I didn’t want him to run and risk anything that would hurt his longevity,” said Johnson of the Warriors’ senior.
“I know he would have PR’d.”
Setting a personal record in her last AAU meet before heading to the University of Louisville was 2013 Greenbrier graduate Kayla Tyson.
After missing the high school postseason with an injured hamstring, Tyson ran a PR of 24.8 in the 200 preliminaries then finished in sixth, running a 24.65.
“Kayla Tyson went down there and performed out of her mind, and that’s with only running four meets this spring,” Johnson said.
In the girls 15-16 triple jump, Greenbrier’s Alexis Starks took seventh with a leap of 24-02.5.
While he was proud of all his runners, Johnson was especially happy for Tyson and Harden, who will be running for the University of Georgia in this year.
“It was a great way for Jeremy and Kayla both to go out on top,” Johnson said.
Up next for the Striders is a team camp at the University of North Carolina then plenty of work in the weight room before they hit the track again in October.