Copperas Cove youth raising funds to head to AAU Junior Olympics
By LYNETTE SOWELL
A group of local youth ranging in ages from seven to 16 years old have achieved a lofty goal - qualifying to compete at the AAU Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa later this month.
The young athletes belong to the Copperas Cove Express and recently came home from competition in Converse, Texas on July 1, with honors and qualified for the games.
Coach LaBrent Epps couldn’t be prouder of the youngsters.
“I am so proud of each of them, and the parents as well for being committed and trusting the process,” Epps said. “I wanted to do this for Cove because I believe in our youth. I wanted them to showcase that we are still producing top talent. We are also making it affordable for kids to join.”
However, they don’t have the sponsorships as do other Olympians and must raise the funds to go to Iowa and compete.
Epps estimates it will cost about $3,500 for the 11 kids, plus coaches for travel, lodging and meals. The games run from July 26 through Aug. 5.
On Saturday, they held a food truck fundraiser at the site of the former Dollar General on North 1st Street, where the kids themselves waved signs to encourage motorists to stop and buy a plate.
The athletes are continuing to raise funds. Those who are interested in donating directly can do so at : https://donate.stripe.com/3csfZj7mse9Pb1ScMR, via CashApp @Copperas Cove Express. The Copperas Cove Express and Coach Epps can also be reached at (512) 294-8711 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Qualifying for the Junior Olympic Games are:
Makelton Walls, 8, 5th Place, 100-meter dash.
Daevion Phillips, 16, 5th Place, 1100-meter hurdles.
Antoria Smith, 8, 5th Place, Turbo Javelin Throw.
Lia Gonsalves, 8, 6th Place, Turbo Javelin Throw.
Grace Powell, 10, 4th Place, Javelin Throw.
London Bellamy, 7, 6th Place, Turbo Javelin Throw.
Jaylon McCoun, 9, 2nd Place, Turbo Javelin Throw.
Sean Norrington, 9, 4th Place, Turbo Javelin Throw.
Colton Frogge, 9, 5th Place, Turbo Javelin Throw.
Cameron Bellamy, 9, 6th Place, Turbo Javelin Throw.
Jamari Myers, 11, 3rd Place, Turbo Javelin Throw.
Also part of the coaching staff of the Express are David Smith, Vice President Coach; Antwain Smith; Throw Coach. Coach Donald Buckram Jr. also helps out with the team, Epps said.
Their goal is to rent three minivans, and book with AirBnB.
“We have a kid compete each day so it’s a time cruncher, but we are staying positive. We remember we are doing it for the kids, so I believe we can make it happen.”
Twenty years ago, Epps was a Junior Olympian himself in 2003, so it is a bit like coming full circle for him and the memories are still as fresh.
“It was one of the greatest times in my life,” he said. “I was 13, and to compete with the best in the country? It was powerful.”
He competed in the high jump and 400-meter race.
“I made it into the top 20 in the 400, and I left with so much confidence that it helped me compete,” said Epps. “I also went on to win state in football 2002 and 2004 in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and I graduated in 2006.”
The Copperas Cove Express site is www.copperascoveexpress.com