Track and Field: Centre College hosting elite track camp June 5-8
Former Olympic gold medal winner Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be at Centre College June 5-8 to headline a track camp that will feature 13 current and/or former Olympians. (Clay Jackson)
However, that’s going to change in a big way June 5-8.
Centre will host the Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy and will bring in a variety of current and former Olympians headed by sprinter Tyson Gay of Lexington and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who won medals in four different Olympic Games.
“I have never done camps because my summers are sacred with my kids,” Owens said. “God has blessed my life and to be part of bringing all these Olympians to Kentucky in general and Danville specifically is an amazing opportunity.
“I am really concerned with track and field in Kentucky. When I recruit other states, it’s obvious the pool of Kentucky kids running track is not quite like it used to be. I hope this camp can help revive the love of track in the state for some kids.”
Joyner-Kersee and Sharrieffa Barksdale, another former Olympian who lives in Lexington, will oversee the camp.
Joyner-Kersee, 48, was the 1984 silver medalist in the heptathlon, 1988 gold medalist in the long jump and heptathlon, 1992 gold medalist in heptathlon and bronze medalist in the long jump, and 1996 bronze medalist in the long jump. Sports Illustrated for Women voted Joyner-Kersee the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.
Barksdale is the former U.S. record holder in the 400-meter hurdles and competed in the 1984 Olympics. She was also assistant manager for the 2008 Olympic track and field team.
The two put on a camp in Harrodsburg last summer that had sparse participation. It originally was scheduled for Lexington and moved to Harrodsburg when a scheduling conflict arose.
Owens didn’t even know the camp was scheduled until her husband told her that Joyner-Kersee was in Harrodsburg.
“Jackie Joyner-Kersee was my track idol,” said Owens, who ran cross country and track at Mercer County High School. “My room (at home) and dorm room (in college) had pictures of her. I saved all the Sports Illustrated copies she was in. I had all kind of stuff I was hoping one day to get her to sign.”
Owens called Mercer’s Leslie Smith, who was helping with the camp, and asked if she could meet Joyner-Kersee. She not only got to meet her, she also got everything she had signed.
“I heard some women talking about the camp and they made mention that they hoped to make it again next year but they wish there was some place to house the kids so they would not have to drive and maybe kids from other states could come as well,” Owens said. “I kept that on my mind.”
Joyner-Kersee had given Owens her e-mail address, so the Centre coach sent a proposal for a summer camp to her and Barksdale.
“Centre hosts a lot of camps and the soccer camps have been especially successful,” Owens said. “I thought if we couldn’t make this successful, we were doing something wrong. I didn’t hear anything for two weeks and thought they had just deleted the e-mail. Then I got a call from Sharrieffa telling me they were interested.”
Barksdale visited campus, talked to Joyner-Kersee and they decided to host the camp here.
“They are in charge of the clinicians and I am in charge of advertising and setting things up,” Owens said.
From there, Owens said the idea “exploded” and Centre is expecting over 400 — 300 participants, 100 coaches and/or parents — at the camp that costs $400 per overnight camper and $315 for a commuter camper. Fee includes meals, camp T-shirt and autographed photo with the Olympians. For $200, a coach or parent can attend and gets lunch daily, observation of all instruction, one-hour session with the Olympians daily and camp polo shirt.
Owens admits landing Gay is “huge” for the camp because he’s a Kentuckian and one of the world’s best sprinters. Other current U.S. track and field athletes hoping to compete in the 2012 Olympics who will be here are Jamie Nieto, Aretha Hill Thurmond, Kristsin Heaston, Dwight Phillips and Bershawn Jackson.
Former Olympians who will be on the camp staff are Chandra Cheeseborough, Joetta Clark Diggs, Johnny Gray, Jeff Hartwig, Gary Morgan, Rose Monday, Dana Pounds, Francie Larrieu Smith and Angela Taylor. In addition, 2010 Kentucky state bodybuilding champion Demetrius Robertson will provide instruction on sports nuitrition and weight training.
“The amazing thing is that the six active athletes will compete in the world championships three weeks after our camp,” Owens said. “That’s so big to have them on campus. Other Division I schools actually wanted this camp, but Jackie and Sharrieffa decided to bring it here and we are so appreciative of that.
“We have a week between the Kentucky high school state championship meet and our camp. That’s about the only date the current Olympians could do it with their schedules. I also wanted to do it early in June so track and field would be fresh on everyone’s mind.
“There has never been a track and field camp of this magnitude in U.S. There has never been a camp with this many Olympians at one time. I think it is the premier track and field camp in the country. I have not seen a better one with the clinicians coming here. The fees are very reasonable. Some camps are more expensive and have no Olympians.”
Adidas and the Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches Association are major camp sponsors, along with Centre.
“The Olympians are not coming for free. There’s a vast amount of expense with the camp,” Owens said. “If a coach brings five athletes, he or she may come for free.
“Parents and coaches are going to have full access to watch any and all clinics they want and the Olympians have agreed to meet each day with the coaches to let them pick their brains. The camp is not just for kids. We want it to be a learning camp for coaches, too.”
Perhaps the biggest camp attraction will be that Gay will do a full-scale workout June 6 at Centre.
“That’s the only day he will be here. He’s going to work out on our track with his coach that afternoon,” Owens said. “You can sit at the stadium and literally watch him do an Olympic-caliber workout on our track.
“Having him not only here, but also doing a workout prior to the world championship is really something special and so, so unique. You just don’t get an opportunity to watch something like that very often.”