This photo shows 12 year-old sprinter Francisco Sanchez*
at a Greyhounds' training session.
If you have not heard of the East Palo Alto Greyhounds youth track club, now would be a good time to start paying attention. the Greyhounds squad is currently training in preparation for its ninth trip to the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics. The team is composed of athletes ranging from early elementary school to the high school varsity level. This week, twenty athletes representing the Greyhounds club will compete on the national stage in Jacksonville, FL.
Founded just ten years ago, the Greyhounds are already a known name in the youth track and field community and like years past, expectations are sky high.
According to Greyhounds head coach and founder Eric Stuart, expectations are that way for a reason. “Compared to the rest of the competition, [our program] is a power house in terms of size of the team and community,” Stuart said. “We have had top All-American finishers in the past six Junior Olympic Track meets. We’re one of the strongest programs in the Bay Area and we’re noticed in the country.”
One athlete with a major opportunity to make an impact next week is twelve-year-old Francisco Sanchez. Although Sanchez will have to run in the 13-14 age group (he turns 13 in September so USATF bumps him up a year), the age issue should not be much of a concern. Having already posted bests of 11.78 in the 100m and 24.43 in the 200m, Sanchez’ times speak for themselves.
Another sprinter looking to prove himself on the national stage is fifteen-year-old Brandon Bains. Having wrapped up his sophomore year at St. Francis (Mountain View) as the third fastest sprinter in CCS (10.87 in the 100m), Bains could be in contention for a top three finish.
Competing at a slightly slower pace, Lawan Patterson is a rising star as a racewalker, although the event didn’t catch on immediately for the nine-year-old. “When she did this event the first time she cried the whole race,” Stuart said. “By the end of the season she was the Association Champ.”
Samvrat Gowda is supposed to lead the way for the Greyhounds in the 800m for the boys 7-8 group. Stuart thinks he is one of the major “sleepers” in the field and that a top three finish is likely.
The 9-10 boys 4x100 team, featuring DeAngelo Williams, Feliciano Latu, Javon Chapman and RayAnthony Campbell, should also be in the mix for a top finish.
It may seem strange that a team from such a small community can have such a major impact on the national level.
Take one look at the rankings so far this season and you will see athletes from all over the country, with a disproportionate number from the southern states. California is certainly no stranger to the leader boards, but most of the athletes seem to come from larger cities: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno, Sacramento.
East Palo Alto certainly stands out on the list, but with so many athletes in the running for top finishes (the Greyhounds have had All-American finishers in each of the past six Junior Olympics) the squad is punching well above its weight to say the least. The way Eric Stuart sees it, things are only going to improve.
“The future is looking bright for the Greyhounds,” Stuart said. “We are going to grow next year enormously. There are so many families that are interested in track and field now. The Greyhounds have made track and field relevant in our community.”
The Greyhounds will make the trip to Jacksonville and compete from July 27 to Aug. 2. Stay tuned for a follow up story and the Greyhounds results.
*Francisco Sanchez was misidentified in the previous article. The correct spelling of his name was made on July 29, 2015
To contact, Alistair Thompson, the author of the above article send an email to email@example.com