Summer vacation for a lot of young people means taking trips to the lake, devouring ice cream cones and hanging out with friends.
That’s not how it works for the athletes in the Intensity Track Club.
For them, summer’s all about working hard, competing for medals and — if everything goes well — traveling to the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics.
Thanks to an outstanding collective effort in the AAU regional championship July 4-5 at Ypsilanti High School, there will be 11 young men and women making a road trip to Norfolk, Va., in early August for the AAU Junior Olympics.
“It’s outstanding,” said Intensity head coach Jamal Johnson, whose club sent only six members to the 2014 nationals in Iowa. “It’s almost double this year. These kids have worked very, very hard from cross country to indoor season to the regular high school season. They deserved it. They earned it.”
The club, however, needs to generate about $6,000 to fund the Aug. 2-8 trip to Virginia. To that end, a bowling fundraiser is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at Merri-Bowl Lanes on Five Mile near Merriman in Livonia.
“Tickets are going to be $20,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have a 50/50 raffle, basket raffle and also auction off some (Detroit) Lions tickets.”
The nonprofit organization also is looking to raise money through the Go Fund Me website (gofundme.com/intensitytrack) along with an ongoing bottle and can drive.
Johnson also coaches the varsity boys track and field team at Wayne Memorial, where Intensity holds practices Monday through Thursday during — yes — the hot summer.
“And on weekend we normally have track meets,” said Johnson, adding that the busy schedule helps youngsters who range from high school sophomores to recent graduates such as Caroline Mahalak (Westland John Glenn), Malik Jordan (Wayne), Ledell O’Bryant (Wayne), Corey Goodloe (Monroe) and Will Jackson (Hartland).
Most members of that quintet will attend college, a source of much pride for Johnson.
With a smile, Johnson added that he and Intensity assistant coach Jana Hughes did give the 15 athletes in the club a week off to rest and relax following the conclusion of the spring high school season.
When the second week of June rolled around, however, it was back to work.
Johnson and Hughes, who are juggling fundraising and coaching efforts ahead of the anticipated trek to Norfolk, agreed that it’s worth the extra summer sweat for their athletes.
“For one, it helps you get recruited for colleges,” Johnson noted. “Two, it teaches you responsibility, knowing you have to be at practice every single day, you can’t just throw your summer away doing whatever.
“You have to do everything right and that’s how they got to this level, how they got to this point. And there’s discipline, it’s extremely tough (in the summer). We hold every one accountable.”
The coaches will accompany the group to Norfolk State University, where the AAU Junior Olympics will take place.
“I’m excited, I’m very happy,” Hughes said. “They just work so hard and it’s good to see. They know they worked hard and they get rewarded for it.
“The trip to Virginia, it will be fun. Hopefully we’ll be able to have practice on the beach.”
Making the cut
Most of the Intensity contingent qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics in the age 17-18 division at regionals, although several made the cut in the age 15-16 bracket.
To qualify, athletes needed to finish: in the top 6 in running events; in the top 4 for relays; in the top 5 for field events.
The big winners at Ypsilanti High School were Jordan and Montel Hood (who will be a senior at Wayne in 2015-16).
Jordan won the 3,000-meter run in the men’s age 17-18 division, finished second in the 1,500-meter run and third in the 2,000-meter steeplechase.
“That’s not an event contested in Michigan high schools,” Johnson said. “Steeplechase is a mix between track and cross country, there are five barriers on the track. They are hurdles, but they’re a lot thicker and sturdier.
“One of the hurdles you jump onto and jump into a pit of water. And you keep going. I convinced him of doing it and he turned out to be pretty decent at it.”
Hood finished first in the 400 and 800 runs (the former with a personal best of 48.02, which Johnson said was the third-best time in that event all year in the state) and was part of the victorious 3,200-meter relay with Jordan, Goodloe and Jackson.
In the women’s age 17-18 division, Mahalak grabbed the championship in the 3,000-meter race walk.
Placing third in the 800 and 1,500 runs was another Rocket, Shiann Proffitt (who will be a senior next year).
On their radar
Also on the women’s side, Wayne had two national qualifiers in the age 15-16 division.
Anavia Battle, entering her junior season with the Zebras, placed third both in the 100 and 200 dashes, with respective times of 12.53 and 25.67.
And soon-to-be-sophomore Alyssa Johnson qualified in the discus (87 feet, 7 inches, exceeding her personal record by 11 feet) and shot put (31-02).
Others qualifying include Wayne’s O’Bryant and Andrew Chant and St. John’s Steven Linton.
They all will have the chance for even more medals to come, perhaps at the AAU Junior Olympics. And Johnson emphasized that doing so will only open doors for them.
“Whenever you have athletes who compete at a national level, that’s all college coaches go to,” he said. “They want to see if you can compete at that level, how you handle it, and if you have what it takes.
“Because in college, you’re going to get the best of the best, all at the same school every day at practice.”
What: The Intensity Track Club, based at Wayne Memorial High School, qualified 11 athletes for the upcoming AAU Junior Olympics in Norfolk, Va.
When: Norfolk State University will host the national tourney between Aug. 2-8.
Fundraisers: In order for the group, coached by Jamal Johnson and Jana Hughes, to make the trip to Virginia, it will cost about $6,000 for expenses.
To help cut into that bill, a bowling fundraiser will take place 4 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at Merri-Bowl Lanes in Livonia (on Five Mile near Merriman). Tickets to bowl will be $20. There will be a 50/50 raffle and basket raffle and tickets to a Detroit Lions preseason game will be auctioned off.
Other efforts to help raise the money include accepting donations through the Go Fund Me website (gofundme.com/intensitytrack) and an ongoing bottle/can drive.
Contact: Email the coaches at email@example.com or visit the Intensity Track Club Detroit page on Facebook. Johnson also can be reached at 313-421-3008.