10 Victoria Nitrous tracksters qualify for AAU Junior Olympics

Julie Garcia By Julie Garcia

July 17, 2014 at 2:17 a.m.

Members of the Victoria Nitrous track team include from left: Ty Diaz, 12; Brayden Tillery, 14; Branton Winkenwerder, 12; Graham Lemmons, 16; Addison Diaz, 8; John Estrada, 15; Meredith Winkenwerder, 14; Matthew Acuna, 15, and Marisol Andrade, 14.

Members of the Victoria Nitrous track team include from left: Ty Diaz, 12; Brayden Tillery, 14; Branton Winkenwerder, 12; Graham Lemmons, 16; Addison Diaz, 8; John Estrada, 15; Meredith Winkenwerder, 14; Matthew Acuna, 15, and Marisol Andrade, 14.   MATTHEW BUSCH for The Victoria Advocate

Remi Parker runs because she doesn't have to think about anything else.

There's no cellphones, school-work or TV shows to distract her. It's just the sound of her feet on the pavement.

"I can clear my head and focus on one thing," the Port Lavaca resident said. "Instead of daily life where you think about school and all these things. ... In running, I can think about just one goal."

Parker, 13, and nine of her Victoria Nitrous track and field teammates qualified to compete in the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics Tuesday through Aug. 2 in Des Moines, Iowa.

However, only Parker and 14-year-old Brayden Tillery will travel to Iowa to represent the Crossroads in running and throwing events.

Parker, who will be an eighth-grader at Travis Middle School, will compete in the 3,000- and 1,500-meter run.

Since starting track as a seventh-grader and joining the Nitrous team, the young athlete has seen progress in herself.

"I've improved a whole bunch in my time especially; I practice running at least 2 miles every day," she said. "I think I've improved stamina and endurance."

Nitrous coaches Jesse Garcia and Tony Diaz have been involved with the team officially for three years. Garcia was a thrower in high school while Diaz was a runner.

As Cade Middle School coaches, the summer track team helps them recruit during the school year in track and also football.

"We ask, 'Don't like baseball? Come out and try (track),'" Garcia said.

What the coaches find are kids who aren't particularly interested in the standard baseball, softball, soccer and dance life.

"We open the doors to other kids to see other avenues of competition than baseball and CYFL (Crossroads Youth Football League)," Garcia said.

"The interest is there - our numbers are growing," Diaz said. "Club-wise, we're not as big as San Antonio or Houston, but we are growing."

The coaches believe it is their job to prepare their competitors for whatever may come.

"We try to leave it in the hands of our athletes whatever event best fits them," Diaz said. "They tell us, and we evaluate them, too."

Isaac Garcia, 16 and the coach's son, has also qualified for the Junior Olympics in the javelin and discus. He has competed in the championship meet in the past.

Diaz's daughter, Addison Diaz, is also on the Nitrous team. The 8-year-old has been competing since she was 6 years old.

The coaches said they encourage parents to sign their kids up at a young age.

"You have to really work hard to get better and accomplish what you want," Addison Diaz said. "It's really fun to go to places you don't normally get to go to."

Addison Diaz said it's fun to do track because she likes to be active.

"You have to be competitive, and have a goal," she said. "My goal was 50-meter javelin throw, and I reached it (at my last meet). I'm very happy I met my goal at the end of the track season."

Victoria Nitrous has built a reputation as a strong throwing and fielding squad, and it's something the coaches take pride in.

"People say we focus on throwing, but it's the kids' choice," Diaz said.

"Javelin is a new event in the AAU, and it requires a lot of coaching to get proper mechanics," Garcia said. "It's one rare fielding event that's rarely seen in this part of the country."

With that in mind, many of Nitrous' qualifiers are throwers, including Tillery.

Tillery, a Cade student, ran track and played football last year as a seventh-grader and was quickly noticed by Garcia and Diaz.

"He's one of the ones we see here consistently at every meet," Diaz said.

Tillery never imagined he would qualify for any national competition, he said.

"Ever since I started track, I wanted to get better, faster and stronger," Tillery said. "I hope that I'm better in eighth grade than I was in seventh grade."

Tillery will be competing in the javelin and admits that he only recently started practicing with one.

"This is really big for me," he said. "I didn't think I would get to this level in sports."

Tillery will be traveling to Iowa with his parents and brothers, who is also an athlete.

"I want to see what this kind of competition is like and do my best," he said. "These are the kids that are fast and strong, and I need to step up, do my best and not give up."

While the coaches will be unable to attend this summer, they have gone in previous years to support Nitrous.

"It's an experience they won't forget; even if they don't medal just being amongst the best in the country," Garcia said. "It's all for the kids to enjoy track and field."

Though eight qualifiers will not participate in the event, Diaz and Garcia still entered their final season stats and saw where their kids ranked in the country.

Many of them are ranked among the highest in the region, state and country.

"It's documented forever online where they fall in the country, and that's something they can be proud of," Garcia said.

Both Garcia and Diaz want to wish all the Victoria and Crossroads-area AAU qualifiers well in Des Moines.

"It's great to see Victoria kids up there," Diaz said.



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