Rockdale County public school students Jayden Whidbee, Colin Hudson, Donovan Rodgers, and Justin Williamson have earned spots at the 2019 AAU National Junior Olympics at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The event will be held from July 24 through Aug. 3.
In spectacular regional performances at the AAU Region Qualifier Championships (Region 8) in Greenville, South Carolina, the athletes finished in the Top 6 of their respective events in order to qualify for the Nationals.
Based on these recent performances, the athletes are positioned well to finish in the Top 10 of their respective events at Nationals.
Whidbee, a rising 7th grader at Memorial Middle School, has delivered top times all season, culminating in two third-place finishes in the Region 8 qualifier in both the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes.
Whidbee is coached by Sayon Cooper’s private group, Cooper Track Stars. Cooper also serves as the coach of the Liberian Olympic Track and Field team. Cooper is a former Olympian having represented Liberia at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, competing in the Men's 100, 200, and Men's 100-meter relay.
As a member of the Abilene Christian University track & field team in Abilene, Texas, Cooper also earned the 1997 NCAA Division II championship in the 55, 100 and 200-meter dashes.
Cooper is no stranger to the Rockdale track and field community, having coached Candace Hill, a former Rockdale High School Gatorade Athlete of the Year, to American records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes at the age of 16.
This feat earned her two world titles, the 2015 100 and 200-meter World Youth Champ and 2016 100-meter World Junior Championship.
Justin Williamson, a rising fifth grader, Donovan Rodgers, a rising eighth grader and Colin Hudson, a rising 7th grader are all members of United Unattached Athletics (UUA), a track team focused on middle distance runners coached by Gbolahan Fatuga.
In its inaugural year, UUA has six athletes including Wiliamson, Hudson, and Rogers that have qualified for the AAU National event. Coach Fatuga is a former Division 1 Track and Field athlete having run for Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island where he was named the MVP in 1996.
In addition, Coach Fatuga was a member of the Nigerian National Track team and the Reebok-Boston track team. Coach Fatuga also holds the Nigerian National Indoor 800-meter record (1:49).
Hudson and Rodgers both attend General Ray Davis Middle School. In his race to the National Junior Olympics, Rodgers finished second and fourth in the 3000-meter dash and 1500-meter dash, respectively.
Similarly, Hudson secured third and sixth place finishes in the 1500 and 800 running personal records in both races. In his bid for the Nationals, Williamson, a Shoal Creek Elementary student, finished first in the 1500 and fourth in the 800.
While these athletes have been running for several years, this is their first year with United Unattached Athletics.