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Half-Steppers lose sprints, but set to win race for future

on August 16, 2011

Who puts ice in their socks? That’s exactly what Richmond Half-Stepper Robert Freeman, 7, did after completing a race at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans, which ran from July 30 to August 6.

“It was hot,” said Freeman, as he laughed thinking about the surface of the track.

Once his toes cool off, Freeman said he will break the Junior Olympic 400-yard dash record within the next six years. “I’m definitely going to do that,” said Freeman without batting an eye.

The bayou heat, on the other hand, along with stiff competition from across the country made for a challenging track event for the young Richmond runners. Of the 18 runners who boarded a charter bus sponsored by the City of Richmond on July 29 bound for New Orleans, no one advanced to the medal round although a few did record personal bests in various races.

100-yard sprinter and 400-yard relay runner, Kyree Williams, 10, said the weeklong competition made him realize that people train and run even faster than the Half-Steppers. “I couldn’t run harder than the other people,” said Williams. “I’m going to stretch and run [to train for next year].”

Coach Eric Avery acknowledged training may have played a factor in how Asia McConico, 10, performed. “The fact we weren’t training the way we would have liked to caused her not to do as well as I know she can,” said Avery. “So we decided today that we’re going to continue to work out through September.”

Arthur Corbin, in lane seven, runs the first leg of a relay race during nationals in New Orleans. (Photo by Reggie Doss)

Training was a mental and physical roller coaster this past season because the team had no routine home practice field. Runners had to call the day of each practice to find out where they would meet. Avery said location uncertainty compromised workout strategies and wasted time. Now that the team has secured a training site at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial track for next season, a more consistent training regimen will be implemented.

But, said Avery, “For us to have gotten as far as we got, with the situations that went on this past season—I think it’s really a testament to the dedication of the kids.”

Track or no track, medal or no medal, the Half-Steppers’ record for influencing young lives is golden. Take Charonda Williams, 24, for example. Coach Eric said he discovered her one day while she ran to the bus stop. Now the 2005 Gompers High graduate lives in Clermont, Fla., and trains with former gold medal Olympian sprinter Dennis Mitchell.

Williams said in a phone interview yesterday that if it weren’t for the Half-Steppers she would have never discovered her talent and realized her potential. “Running for the Half-Steppers is about positive reinforcement,” said Williams. “It’s not just about competing but about having fun.”

Having fun is exactly what Williams has been having since she last put on the spikes for the Half-Steppers. As a student athlete at Laney College in Oakland, Williams was a two-time community college state champion. Afterwards she earned a full ride to Arizona State University where she evolved into an All-American sprinter. With college degree in her back pocket, Williams has represented her country at world track meets and is currently hopeful for a 2012 Olympic invitation.

Coach Avery acknowledges this past track season was a tough one and that the city was generous with its $17,000 gift to fund their travel to New Orleans. To show its thanks, Avery said the Half-Steppers want to start holding annual meets so that they can earn more money.

“I think it’s fair for us to try and do something back for the city,” said Avery. “Be it monetarily or as an example—if the city needs us for anything, the Half-Steppers will be there to represent the city of Richmond in a positive way.”

| Follow the team from start to finish.


  1. eric on August 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    As a Coach of the Richmond Half-Steppers I want to thank all the contributors, toward the effort to send these young people to the National Championships.
    It is never more evident that the statment ” It take a village to raise a child”, embodies the citizens of Richmond.
    We the members of The Original Richmond Half-Steppers, thank each and everyone of you for the generous support and hope we have the opportunity to repay you all in what ever way we can.
    A special thanks goes out to Corky Booze, Dr. Jeff Ritterman and the City Council, along with Tyler Orsburn and the Staff of The Richmond Confidential
    Thank You,ThankYou,& Thank You again

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