COLUMBIA, Md. — As a group of young athletes walk around the track at Wilde Lake High School, their medals clanging around their necks. It's the unmistakable sound of winning. The Heart N Glory Striders are trying to do more of it on the biggest stage. They are heading to the AAU Junior Olympics.
"To this point it has taken so much dedication. We’ve been through a lot, training to get to Junior Olympics," said 10-year-old Brilee Brown. "We have improved so much. This team is just awesome."
9-year-old Kenae Fullwood, 12-year-old Jordan Etheridge, 8-year-old Laila Mallory and Brown are preparing for the meet of a lifetime. The Junior Olympics runs form July 29-Aug. 6 in Greensboro, N.C.
"It’s so exciting," said Brown. "I’ve really been wanting to go to North Carolina."
"It feels important to me and my family because I just want to make my family proud," added Fullwood.
"I’m excited for it. I’m excited to just do the hurdles," said Etheridge. He will compete in the 100 meter hurdles. Brown will compete in the triathlon and 400 meter. Fullwood will run the 200 meter. Mallory will run the 100 meter, 200 meter and 400 meter.
The Heart N Glory Striders are based out of Columbia. They practice at Wilde Lake H.S. and are coached by Brilee's father, Breland Brown.
"I’m super proud of all these kids and it’s amazing to see the hard work these kids put in and to be able to make it to the Junior Olympics," he said. "Just getting there, honestly, is an amazing experience."
To qualify for the Junior Olympics athletes must place in the top six of their event at regionals.
Over 14,000 track and field athletes from the U.S. and Puerto Rico, ages 8-18, compete at the Junior Olympics.
All of these Striders are going to the Junior Olympics for the first time except for Brilee. She has been once before and plans on using that experience to her advantage.
"It helps me a lot because I know what the competition is like and what it’s going to bring this year. So, it really builds up my confidence," she said.
Her dad believes that’s what it’s all about - becoming a better athlete and person.
"It’s an experience for them, something they can enjoy, something they can remember for a lifetime, something they can tell their kids about when they get older," he said.
With hopefully more medals to show them as well.