10 local athletes headed to Junior Olympics

Camila Treviño-Davila, left, and Eligh Gloria leave the starting line during Claremont Nighthawks practice on Monday. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

By Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Ten kids from the nonprofit Claremont Nighthawks running club will compete against the best young track and field athletes in the nation July 22-28 at the United States of America Track and Field National Junior Olympics T&F Championships at Texas A&M University’s E. B. Cushing Stadium.

“It’s exciting and I feel good about myself for getting there,” said 13-year-old Grace Delaney following Monday’s practice at Claremont High. She is an El Roble Intermediate School student and will be a part of the 13-14-year-old girls 4×800 relay team in Texas. “I’ve been running for like three years and now I can make it to nationals.”

“I’m also really excited, kind of nervous,” said rising El Roble student Thijmen Post, 12, who will run in the boys 11-12 1500-meter race and in the 4×800 relay. “Me and my friends have worked pretty hard these last few months and just got one more race to do. I feel like the hard work has paid off.”

Mark Batres III, left, sets the pace for Thijmen Post during Claremont Nighthawks practice on Monday. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

Other runners echoed their teammates’ excitement.

“I’ve been going at this for three years. It’s super exciting and [I’m] proud to be representing Claremont and going to a national stage,” said Chaparral Elementary student Ruhaan Kashyap, 11. Ruhaan will also run alongside Thijmen in the 4×800 relay.

Thijmen and Ruhaan have both competed previously at nationals.

Other girls athletes heading to nationals include Cora Hawkins, 12, who will take part in the 2000-meter steeplechase; Camila Treviño-Davila, 13, in the 13-14 3000-meter dash and alongside Maham Ali, 13; Naomi Haddad, 12; and Grace in the 13-14 4×800 meter relay.

Along with Thijmen for the boys are 11-year-old Mark Batres III, son of head Nighthawks coach Mark Batres Jr., who will compete in the 11-12 3000 and 1500 meter runs. His brother Nico Batres, 9, will race in the 9-10 1500-meters. Mark and Thijmen will also compete in the 11–12  4×800 relay with teammates Ruhaan and Kieran Carr, 10.

In order to get to this stage, the athletes had to place within the top eight at the June 7-9 USATF Southern California Association Junior Olympic Championships, then within the top five at the June 20-23 USATF Region 15 Junior Olympic Championships.

The Nighthawks had a great showing at the association championships. For the boys: Thijmen secured third in the 11-12 800-meter final at 2:22.50, and third in the 1500-meter final at 4:47.09. Nico took fourth in the 1500 9-10 final at 5:22.96 and seventh in the 800 meters at 2:39.88, while Mark Batres III placed first in the 3000-meter final for the boys 11-12 division at 10:01.94, and second in the 1500 meter final at 4:45.94. Ruhaan squeaked into regional qualifying for the 11-12 high jump and long jump, finishing eighth in both. The 11-12 4×800 relay team placed second at 10:18.93.

For the girls, Cali Motley was sixth in the 11-12 200-meter final at 27.7. In the 13-14 division, Camila was seventh in the 1500 final at 5:06.81 and sixth in the 3000-meter dash at 11:01.61; Cora was fifth in the 2K steeplechase at 9:25.48; and the 4×800 relay team was fourth at 10:29.73.

Mark Batres II, head coach and president of the Claremont Nighthawks running club, speaks to his team at practice Monday. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

Then came the region 15 championships at Orange Glen High School.

On the boys side, Nico placed fifth after another competitor scratched in the 9-10 1500-meter race at 5:18.29, and 18th in the 800-meter final at 2:47.52. In the 11-12 division, Mark Batres III was fourth in both the 1500-meters at 4:43.78, and the 3000 meters,10:29.37. Thijmen was fifth in the 1500 meter race at 4:43.81, and took eighth in the 800 meter dash at 2:26.88. The 4×800 relay team was third at 10:28.50. Ruhaan tied for sixth in the high jump and for 15th in the long jump.

In the girls 13-14 division, Camila secured seventh in the 1500 meters at 5:10.83, and fifth in the 3000 meters at 11:07.94, while Cora was fourth in the 2K steeplechase at 10:16.13. Cali was seventh in the 11-12 200 meter dash at 27.87.

The girls 4×800 relay ended with a nail biter, with the Nighthawks finishing 00:00.18 seconds faster than their rivals from Orange County to secure fifth place at 10:30.07.

Camila was a huge factor in the race, said Nighthawks Director of Operations Natalie Miano, closing a nearly 50 meter gap to secure the team’s trip to nationals.

“It was at least a 50 meter finishing kick,” Miano said. “She ran down the fifth place girl and literally closed a 50 meter gap in the last lap. That was probably by far the biggest highlight we’ve had coaching this team.”

Full results from both meets are at scausatf.org.

Claremont Nighthawks (L-R) Cora Hawkins, Maham Ali, Ruhaan Kashyap, Rylan Carr, Nico Batres, Kieran Carr, and Sienna Carr at practice on Monday. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

Early into the season, coach Mark Batres Jr. realized the athletes had the potential to head to Texas. He credited the athletes’ mentality and work ethic in getting them this deep into the season, and spoke about the team’s unique dynamics since it is a nonprofit competing against elite clubs.

“I know a lot of those teams, they charge a lot of money, and they get kids that are really, really, really serious, and they get kids that are there just for running, like that’s their main sport” he said. “For us it’s like we have kids that are relatively local … and they’re not all superstars, they’re not all people that are like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m here just to run.’ We have people that are soccer players, that are baseball players that do other sports but that find running very enjoyable.

“I just want them to have fun. For us, the main thing is to make practice enjoyable, to make running enjoyable.”

It will cost $600 to $800 per athlete to send the 10 athletes — five girls and five boys — to the Junior Olympics in Texas. A donation page at claremontnighthawks.org has been established to help offset the costs of the trip.

After the junior Olympics, the track and field season for the Nighthawks will conclude. Miano, Mark Batres Jr., and volunteer assistant coaches Rima Shah and Lonny Carr will then gear up for the team’s cross-country season which begins in August.


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