Local youth sprinters shine on national stage

// ames-Heard, Ringo place in top five in 200

Local youth track standouts Saudia James-Heard and Kelee Ringo are continuing to shine. The duo was part of a group of six athletes to represent Washington at the Hershey’s Track and Field Games on Aug. 3 in Hershey, Pa., as each placed in the top five in the 200-meter dash in their respective divisions.

“It felt really good,” said Ringo, an 11-year-old from Tacoma making his first appearance at the meet, which featured 450 of the top 9- to 14-year-old athletes from around North America. “I felt honored that I got to go.”

Ringo, the only 11-year-old in his group amongst seven 12-year-olds, claimed fourth place in the 200 with a time of 26.81 seconds. He earned the ticket to Pennsylvania by winning the 200 in 26.6 seconds at the regional meet at Mount Tahoma Stadium on July 23. The feat is even more impressive considering Ringo started track just three years ago as a way to improve his quickness for football. Ringo’s times in the 100- and 200-meter dashes also qualified him for the Junior Olympics on July 22-28 in Greensboro, N.C., but he didn’t attend that event and hopes to qualify again next year.

“I’m hoping to get good in both (events),” he said. “I want to win it all next year.”

But Ringo, who will attend Gray Middle School this fall, was quick to deflect attention, giving credit for his success to “all my coaches and my parents. I especially thank God and my competition.”

James-Heard, 13, made her fourth trip to the meet, having won the 400-meter dash last year. Moving up to the 13- to 14-year-old age group this year, she took fifth in the 200-meter dash in a time of 27.07 seconds, noting that racing against an older group has provided a greater challenge.

“They do take longer strides,” she said of the 14-year-olds, “so I just have to keep up with them. It’s hard to keep up with the strides, but I do my best and try.”

That had capped a busy, impressive few weeks for James-Heard, who had set the Hershey’s Washington state record in the 200 at Mount Tahoma Stadium with a time of 25.05 seconds. She had taken third place in both the 400 and long jump at the AAU National Track and Field Championships on July 8-14 in Orlando, Fla., and added a tenth-place finish in the 400 with a time of 57.52 seconds the following week at the Junior Olympics in North Carolina.

Despite being a seasoned veteran of national meets, James-Heard noted that she especially appreciated the time outside the track in Pennsylvania, as Hershey’s put up athletes in college dorms and matched them up with roommates.

“It was a really nice experience,” said James-Heard, who will be entering eighth grade at Hutdloff Middle School in Lakewood this fall. “You really get to interact with people.”

Washington teammate Cassandra Lemus, of Seattle, won the Girls 9-10 100-meter dash in 14.24 seconds, while Puyallup’s Izaiah Fields took third in the Boys 13-14 200-meter dash in 24.26 seconds. Federal Way’s Kayla Johnson took sixth in the Girls 9-10 softball throw, while Lake Tapps’ Carson Taylor completed the group and took eighth in the Boys 11-12 800-meter run.

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