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Local athletes will be competing in AAU Junior Olympics track meet in Florida this week

By Matthew Dietz
NKyTribune sports reporter

As the Summer Olympics continue in Tokyo, a talented group of Northern Kentucky athletes will compete in the AAU Junior Olympics track and field national championships this week at the University of North Florida.

Twenty-five members of the BCK Thoroughbreds track and cross county club qualified for the event by being among the top finishers in a wide range of events at an AAU regional meet earlier this summer. Most of them are high school student-athletes who will compete in the 17-18 and 15-16 age divisions.

Shawn Proffitt is one of the BCK Thoroughbreds coaches.

After the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 Junior Olympics last summer, BCK coach Shawn Proffitt said he feels a sense of relief going to this year’s event.

“It’s always exciting to race,” Proffitt said. “It’s always exciting to be a part of something bigger than yourself. But I think it’s not necessarily an excitement to compete this year, it’s more of an excitement that we made it through COVID. We’re okay and we just want to live. This year, I think we’re just living again.”

There are still COVID-19 precautions in place for thes national meet. Participants who are not fully vaccinated were required to produce a negative PCR test result within seven days of the participant’s competition date.

Proffitt said distance runners are the Thoroughbreds’ strong suit for the Junior Olympics. With the dead period for Kentucky high school athletics running from June 25 to July 9, the coaches did not get to work with sprinters or field event athletes during that two-week span, but distance runners didn’t lose any training time.

“They (distance runners) can run on their own, whereas sprinters are a little more hands-on — developing the speed, developing the start — it’s a little more focused,” Proffitt said.

Despite those limitations, the club has a girls 400-meter hurdle qualifier, Madison Rabe of Ryle, who is the highest seeded athlete in any event that the club has ever had, according to Proffitt. At the Class 3A state high school meet in June, Rabe placed second in the 300-meter hurdles by a fraction of a second.

Ryle senior Madison Rabe is among the top qualifiers in the 15-17 girls 400-meter hurdles for the AAU Junior Olympics.

“We will be very excited to see what she can do,” Proffitt said.

The coach has been impressed with the progression several other athletes have made over the years, including Renae Kopser and Cara Weber from Ryle and Kaitlyn Strange and Emilie Zengel from Campbell County.

All four of them qualified in multiple distance events and the coach talked about their confidence level.

“As opposed to them saying, ‘Oh my gosh, coach Proffitt, do you know how fast these girls are that I’m lining up against’ and now it’s like ‘I know how fast they are, and Coach P I think I can pop one off today and beat a couple of these girls.’ It’s awesome.”

In 2016, Proffitt, Russell Harden and Edmundo Echeverria started the BCK (Boone, Campbell, Kenton) Track Club with just five athletes. They expanded to include cross country and have taken local runners to AAU national meets in that sport as well.

Proffitt said the club has produced more than 50 AAU All-Americans, which are determined by finishes in national meets. Through the club, young athletes get a broader sense of competition that they may not get elsewhere.

“Not necessarily coaching them above their own high school coaches, because most of them have great high school coaches, but it’s just facilitating and getting them to the (AAU) meets that are out there that they didn’t know they could go to and qualify for and be a part of,” Proffitt said. “That’s what excites us the most.”


Girls 15-17 age group
Allison Arnett (4×800 relay, javelin, high jump)
Natalie Curry (1500 run, 3000 run, 3000 racewalk, 4×800 relay)
Yasmin Garcia (400 run, 800 run, 4×800 relay)
Emma Hopkins (100 hurdles, 4×800 relay, heptathlon, high jump)
Renae Kopser (800 run, 1500 run, 2000 steeplechase, 4×800 relay)
Sophia Palmer (3000 racewalk, 4×800 relay)
Emily Parsons (4×800 relay, pole vault)
Madison Rabe (100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, 4×800 relay)
Trinity Smith (800 run, 1500 run, 4×800 relay)
Kaitlyn Wilson (100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, 4×800 relay, heptathlon)
Cara Weber (800 run, 1500 run, 3000 run, 4×800 relay)

Boys 17-18 age group
Kefa Abakuki (100 run, 4×800 relay)
Kadin Engle (800 run, 1500 run, 3000 run, 4×800 relay)
Brandon McDaniel I (1500 run, 3000 run, 2000 steeplechase, 4×800 relay)
Xander Ritter I (110 hurdles, 400 hurdles, 4×800 relay)
Adam Ruschman Jr. (800 run, 1500 run, 2000 steeplechase, 4×800 relay)

Girls 15-16 age group
Madeline Berner (800 run, 1500 run, 4×800 relay)
Anna Meade (800 run, 1500 run, 4×800 relay)
Veronica Orr (200 run, 400 run, 800 run, 4×800 relay)
Audrey Shelton (1500 run, 3000 run, 2000 steeplechase, 4×800 relay)
Kaitlyn Strange (800 run, 1500 run, 4×800 relay)
Emilie Zengel (800 run, 1500 run, 3000 run, 2000 steeplechase, 4×800 relay)

Boys 15-16 age group
Carter Engle (800 run, 1500 run, 3000 run)

Girls 13-14 age group
Allison Kopser (800 run, 1500 run, 3000 run)

Boys 13-14 age group
Brennan Simpson (200 run, 400 run)

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