Legends track team opens competition to all ages

Published 12:03 am Saturday, May 7, 2016

LAPLACE — When Mark Creecy graduated from East St. John in 1995, he had high hopes for a football career at Southern University.

Sanaja Nelson, 12, of LaPlace does some stretching    under the watchful eye of assistant coach Kendall Harris Wednesday in LaPlace. (Lori Lyons/L’OBSERVATEUR)

Sanaja Nelson, 12, of LaPlace does some stretching under the watchful eye of assistant coach Kendall Harris Wednesday in LaPlace. (Lori Lyons/L’OBSERVATEUR)

It wasn’t until he underwent his football physical that he found out he had torn the ACL in his knee while playing ball in high school.

“I didn’t even know it,” he said.

Sidelined by the diagnosis, Creecy settled for his second sports love — track.

“I was a thrower,” he said. “Javelin, discus and shot. I just turned to that.”

Now, track has become Creecy’s first love. He still coaches football at East St. John, but he’s also the school’s track coach.

Then, in his spare time, Creecy coaches the St. John Legends, an AAU track team made up of local youngsters that has attended competitions throughout the region and even as far away as Houston and Orlando, Fla.

Now Creecy is looking to share his love of track with even more local athletes. He is inviting, not just youngsters from the area, but also adults — even senior citizens — to join the club.

“I’ve always loved track,” Creecy said. “I just thought we’d open it up to anybody who loves track or who loves to compete. It’s not just for young kids. I’m a physical education teacher. I think it’s important for everybody to have some type of athletic outlet. I just want to give everybody an opportunity.”

Yes, moms and dads would be able to compete against their kids — or even against  their own moms and dads at local all-comer meets with various age divisions.

This is not exactly a new concept. Adult runners have been competing all along under U.S. Track and Field rules and in Senior Olympics.

Just this week, 100-year-old Ida Keeling from New York set a world record time of 1 minute, 1.33 seconds in the 100 meter dash in the masters mixed 80-and-older division at the Penn Relays in Philadephia.

Creecy said he regularly sees a 92-year-old woman he knows only as Mrs. Mary competing in the Masters competitions at some of the meets he attends.

The Legends is welcoming any local to join the team’s practices behind the St. John the Baptist Parish Library on U.S. 51.

There he and a slew of former high school and college athletes put youngsters through stretching and drills in between laps around the park.

Creecy  started St. John Legends after helping longtime track coach Ulysses Frontha with his AAU club, the St. Charles Striders. Accompanying Frontha to one of the out-of-state competitions, Creecy said he quickly realized the majority of the competitors were from St. John Parish.

“I’d say 27 of the 32 were from St. John,” he said. “I said, ‘We need to start a club here.’”

Creecy did that, starting with 48 children in 2013 and growing to more than 60 this year.

“School isn’t even out yet and we have that many,” Creecy said.

He also touted the potential his athletes have to go on to participate in track and field at the college level, with many of his alumni earning at least partial scholarships.

Just this week he drove a pair of future college athletes to Mississippi for a college visit.

One of those was East St. John’s Deandre Milton, who specializes in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

Milton said he enjoys being a member of the St. John Legends.

“It’s a good team,” he said.

“It helps us get better for the next year.”

Milton also said he would welcome any of the older generations who want to run with him.

“It’s fine by me,” he said.