St. John Legends qualify 8 for Junior Olympics
Published 12:05 am Saturday, August 1, 2015
RESERVE — Over the past three years East St. John High School head girls track coach Mark Creecy has helped send more athletes on to Division I college track programs than the rest of the school’s marquee sports programs put together.
Creecy said track is often overlooked, but it can provide big results.
“People kind of look at track as a back burner sport,” Creecy said. “The past three years that I have been associating with the girls and boys we have had over 15 kids sign Division I scholarships. That is more than football, basketball and baseball combined.”
When figuring in the kids who have signed scholarships offers with Division II schools that number surpasses 20 athletes. According to Creecy, much of that success hinges on training offered throughout the year, including in the summer with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) track program, the St. John Legends, he started two years ago.
“We just have a lot of kids that have moved on and out of this group to college I am sure I am going to have a lot more,” Creecy said.
Not only does the AAU program offer the opportunity for offseason training and competition, Creecy said it keeps kids busy and provides them with a positive activity during the summer months.
“It gives kids an outlet and a chance to participate and do something during the summers,” Creecy said. “We practice Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and track meets are on Saturdays.”
Monique Gray is one of the athletes who went through the AAU program before receiving a track scholarship to the University of Mobile, where she participates in shot put and discus.
Gray said being able to participate in the summer program kept her at the top of her events and certainly played a role in helping her secure a college scholarship.
“It is a big deal, it helps because it was a lot of practice for me,” she said.
Gray came back this summer to serve as assistant coach for the St. John Legends.
“You have to give back to your community,” Gray said. “You have little ones coming up, so you have to give back to your community so they can follow in your footsteps and get to college.
“It is huge because some people grow up and they don’t want to go to college, and if they see me doing it, they’ll want to do it too.”
The AAU program serves children in St. John the Baptist Parish ages 4 to 18.
The Legends are non-profit organization that employs multiple fundraising methods in order to travel to track meets.
“We’ve done the can shake, we’ve done car washes and talked to some prominent business people in the area,” Creecy said.
“A piece here and a piece there and it kind of adds up.”
That fundraising paid off this summer as more than 40 athletes participated in the program, several of whom qualified for and participated in the AAU National Championships July 9-18 in Orlando, Fla.
At the National Championships the Legends athletes competed against hundreds of other track athletes from across the nation. All of those who finished in the top eight places in their events were named All Americans.
Several of the Legends participating in the National Championships did well in their events.
Koryana Gray placed third in 17-18 year old 1500 meter. In the 11-year-old division, Anya Creecy placed 3rd in discus, 6th in the shot put, 5th in javelin and Jia Gaines placed 7th in the shot put and 8th in the discus. In the 10-year-old division Kharma Creecy placed 2nd in the shot put and 3rd in the javelin. Aja Creecy was 3rd in the shot put and 5th in the javelin in the 9-year-old division, 6-year-old Sarai Gaines was 7th in the 100 and 6th in the long jump and 4-year-old Layla Clayton was second in the shot put.
One of the better performers for the Legends, incoming ESJ senior Dontrell Allen, competed in the early heat for the 100 and 200 meter sprints, but was unable to stay for the entire competition due to Mississippi State football camp. Still, based on his early times he was able to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympics.
“For the 100 meter I finished first in my heat and overall I finished fifth out of 100 some kids,” Allen said. “For the 200 meter I finished first in my heat and it was like 80 some kids that ran the 200. I finished fourth overall.”
While Allen’s first sport is football, he is expected to run track in college as well.
“He is definitely a two sport athlete,” Creecy said.
Other Legends athletes to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympics include Anya Creecy for the 80 meter hurdles, shot put, discus and javelin; Jia Gaines for shot put and discus; Ryan’esha Denet for the 100 meter and 400 meter; Layla Clayton for shot put; Aja Creecy for shot put and javelin and Kharma Creecy for shot put and javelin.
The AAU Junior Olympics will be held today through Aug. 8 in Hampton Roads, Va.
Those who would like to donate to the Legends or join the team for the next season can do so by contacting Coach Mark Creecy by phone at 985-212-7295.