Local youth running team qualifies for Junior Olympic national event

Evan Carr’s close friend Tanner Dozier got Carr seriously interested in running.

Now, running is the reason why the two teenagers will be reuniting after Dozier moved to Washington this year.

The 14-year-old Carr told Dozier, his friend since fourth grade, that the only chance they would be able to race against each other would be at be a couple of years down the line at the high school nationals. He had no idea that he and Dozier would be crossing paths at the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross-Country Championships on Saturday at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida.

The Columbus Pathfinders will be making their third trip in four years to the Junior Olympic Championships, where Dozier also qualified with his team in Washington. The Pathfinders, who took 12 athletes to the championships in its first year in 2014, will be taking 35 this year.

Twenty-four of the runners are Columbus-based athletes, and the other 11 are coming out of the Pathfinders chapter in Brown County. All runners will be competing under Columbus Pathfinders.

Thousands of runners will compete in six different age groups and distances for boys and girls from ages 8-and-under through the 17-18-year-old division. The Pathfinders’ oldest runners are in the 13-14 divisions.

“I’m always excited for big meets, but I also get really nervous when I’m up there,” Carr said. “Up on the line, I’m always really nervous, but once I take off, I’m able to use that adrenaline to just make my race better.”

Runners have to qualify out of the the state and regional meets to make it to Florida. The top five teams, plus the top 30 individual runners in each age group advanced to the next race. It takes at least five runners to qualify as a team for each age group.

The Pathfinders’ season consists of about five races before the the two postseason meets. Coach Craig Dismore said he didn’t know how their runners would match up against other teams coming into the regional, but said he was impressed with the Pathfinders performance.

“We have some age groups that are really strong that we knew had a pretty good shot of placing well,” coach Danny Fisher said. “We just kept progressing throughout the year. The kids just got better, and a lot of them did qualify.”

Julie Klaus, who picked up running in third grade with the Girls on The Run program, will be running the 4K (2.5-mile) race in the 13- to 14-year-old age group. Klaus said she is the most nervous person on her team, but talking with her teammates helps her get into the zone and calm down. The runners have prerace rituals that include dancing and praying to help get focused.

Most of the athletes were to arrive in Tallahasse on Thursday night and plan to do a team walk-through of the course at 1 p.m. today. They also have a team dinner with family that is expected have about 90 people in attendance before race day.

“I love my team a lot, and it’s just fun to be with them on a fun road trip,” Klaus said.

If you go

What: 2017 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross-Country Championships

When: First race starts at 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida

Age groups and distances: ages 8-and-under, 2K (1.25 miles); ages 9-10 and 11-12, 3K (1.9 miles); ages 13-14, 4K (2.5 miles); ages 15-16 and 17-18, 5K (3.1 miles).

Local Participants: The Columbus Pathfinders have 35 runners competing.

Pathfinders coaches: Craig Dismore, Danny Fisher, Christina Newell.

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.