Local athletes prepare for Junior Olympics competition

Port St. Joe track coach Keion McNair hopes that this year’s AAU Junior Olympics games has a much different outcome than last year’s event.

On July 26, 2021, a van hurtling at an estimated 80 miles per hour slammed into the rear of McNair’s car while it was stopped in traffic on I-295 in Jacksonville on the first day of that year’s Junior Olympic competition.

McNair and Darian Mills, a passenger in the car, required several months of therapy and rehabilitation before recovering.

This year, McNair will be taking six athletes to the events, which will take place at Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina, from July 31 – August 7.

Among those athletes is Mills, the 2021 and 2022 1A FHSAA 110 meter hurdles state champion, which will be his event in Greensboro.

Another recent Port St. Joe graduate, Maddie Gortemoller, will compete in both the 400 meter and 800 meter races.

McNair is also coaching Kyron Belton, a 2022 Mosley High School graduate, and a future teammate of Mills at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.

Thomas coach Scott Gowan has entrusted McNair with the summer training of both Belton and Mills before they report on campus. Belton will race in the 200 meter event.

Three other Port St. Joe athletes will accompany McNair to Greensboro. They are rising ninth grader Farrah Springs (1500 meter run), rising eight grader Jayla Hill (triple jump), and rising fourth grader Khyla Rhodes (100 meter and 200 meter races).

All events can be viewed live on FLOTRAK. Visit flotrack.org/signup for more information.

McNair is asking the community for financial assistance so that these young people can take advantage of this “amazing opportunity, (which) shows the hard work they have put in throughout the year.”

“We want to make sure that every athlete… is able to go without worrying about the financial struggle,” said McNair. “Any support is greatly appreciated!”

For additional information, along with ways to help, call Keion McNair at 850-890-6967.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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