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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Track and field club Red Blazers put on the heat

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The athletes on the stadium’s track are mentally prepared after rigorous workouts and thorough training. All have the same intensity and tenacity with one goal in mind — 1st place.

As they stretch their limbs and situate themselves in the blocks the referee looks at his watch and puts his starter gun in the air. He shouts, “on your mark, get set,” then bang! And they are off, but there can only be one winner, a place that Indiana resident Angela Stewart, head coach of the Red Blazers track club, is familiar with.

A graduate of Ball State University, Stewart pursued what she hoped would lead to a career in track and field and has ultimately led to the establishment of a venture with other coaches that cultivates young runners.

“Running is my passion, it is my hobby and my interest,” Stewart said.

After multiple years of training and dedication to the sport her hard work paid off. Decorated with several accolades from winning the Mac Championship in the 800 to running against fallen legend Marion Jones, Stewart earned a spot in NCAA. After this accomplishment there was only one goal she had yet to obtain — the Olympics, but even the best know when it’s time to no longer be the student but the mentor.

“In 2000 I ran my last race headed toward the Olympic trials, and I got beat out by a former teammate,” Stewart said. “That’s when I started looking down the road and seriously considering coaching.”

With a shift in purpose but not in focus, Stewart was asked to assist the Indy’s Racing Cheetahs where she met Alan Hill, who also helped instruct the team. After two years of dedicated service Stewart proposed the idea to create a track club now referred to as the Red Blazers. With Hill’s assistance along with Veronica Belew and Sheila Chadwick, two other coaches for the Blazers, its development was under way.

Initially starting with nine kids, the club now has more than 25 in its third year and is hoping to not only attract more youth but also to help guide them in a positive direction through track and field.

“I think this is tremendous, not just our track club but also other track clubs in the area,” Hill said. “We expose them to track and field and it helps them to know a little bit more about themselves.”

Daryl Johnson, parent of Myles Johnson who participates with the Red Blazers, has had his son involved on the team for two years. He says the benefit of such an organization vastly contributes to the growth of young people.

“I think it’s important to have them more active and it keeps them in shape, it teaches them competition and it teaches some basic life skills that are important for their age groups,” Johnson said.

Running from June to early August the Red Blazers athletes are committed to practice Tuesday through Thursday in two-hour increments at Fall Creek Valley Middle School. The team prepares for summer meets and learns essential skills and techniques to help improve their overall athleticism for their regular school session athletics.

“We try to accomplish a lot. We are teaching the fundamentals. It’s not just about running. We want these kids learning,” Hill said.

And for Stewart, the Red Blazers is her gift, outlet and way of giving back to youth through a sport she has adored for years.

“My goal is to organize any kind of youth physical fitness and training to keep kids off the street and to guide them in the right direction as far as track and field is concerned,” Stewart said.

And with dedicated parents, educators, coaches and student athletes that vision can continue to flourish and cultivate the Red Blazers.

“As a parent and a concerned citizen with an African-American youth, we just need more of our kids involved in things like this because it can have a huge impact,” Johnson said.

Interested parents and students can go to www.lawerenceblazers to find out more about the Red Blazers. The club is open to children ages 5 to 18.

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