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Heat, 400-yard record breakers, slow Half-Steppers’ winning stride

on August 3, 2011

Day two of the Junior Olympics competition at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans was a roller coaster of sorts for the Richmond Half-Steppers’ coaches and parents. They witnessed two of their runners come in first and second place in their respective races with lifetime and personal bests, but no one on the team has yet to qualify for the next round.

Robert Freeman, and Wayne Corbin were the days’s two big winners for the Half-Steppers. Freeman, 7, and Corbin, 8, both of Richmond, ran 400-yard sprints and beat long odds to cross the finish line ahead of the pack.

“Robert was such an inspirational run coming down the final stretch—he was in second-to-last-place and caught everybody by two yards,” said coach Eric Avery by telephone Tuesday night. “There were at least 20,000 people there and everybody was on their feet. It was a beautiful run!”

Wayne Corbin, 8, a student at Santa Fe Elementary, came in second place for his 400-yard event. “I was so happy that I actually cried,” said Avery. “I was just so happy to see that the coaching and instruction I had given them—they followed it to the letter and they won. It was inspirational.”

Avery believes hot temperatures have something to do with the team’s slow start. “The heat is different than the type of heat we get in northern California,” said Avery. “The heat is really taking its toll on them. The times winners were having are comparable to the times we run, but we’re just not used to this type of heat.”

Avery said the coaching staff is not pleased with the way the Junior Olympic event staff is handling the heat, saying that the runners have been exposed to more heat than necessary. “They’ve been having to stand out in the sun prior to the races—sometimes 15 to 30 minutes with limited water,” said Avery. “The sun takes a toll on them. They are children.”

Avery said a lot of the winners among their competitors are from the south where kids are accustomed to such heat and humidity. The team’s silver lining is that each day they are improving; by the time all four relays take place on Thursday or Friday, they’ll have even a better showing, Avery said.

Dining facility off the banks of the Mississippi River. (Photo by Reggie Doss)

Wednesday is an off day for the team as no one runs in events scheduled for that day. The team has scheduled a trip down the Mississippi River and will visit Hurricane Katrina sites that are still in ruins. If time permits they will visit the French Quarter and an underground mall. “Wednesday is site seeing day for us, and an opportunity to learn some history,” said Avery. “It also gives us time to get prepared for Thursday.”

Thursday will give the coaching staff a better perspective as to where the Half-Steppers stand nationally—17 of the 18 runners will run to pursue personal bests.

“Winning [a race] doesn’t mean success,” said Avery. “An honest effort, dedication and respect for what you’re doing—then you let the chips fall where they may.”

| Follow the team from start to finish.

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