A tough hurdle to clear for local track club


Thirteen members of the Peninsula Youth Sports Program did their job recently at the AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games in Reno, Nev. All 13 earned a trip to the National Junior Olympics track and field competition in New Orleans, set for July 31-Aug. 6.

That was the easy part. Now comes the tough part. The team is in jeopardy of not attending due to lack of funding.

The East Palo Alto-based track and field club is in the process of trying to raise $18,000 to pay for expenses for all 13 athletes and their chaperones.

"If the money isn't raised, then many of our athletes won't be able to go," said Lerisa Puckett, a team mom who registers the athletes for each meet and who is spearheading the fundraising drive.

The track club, in its fourth year, is a nonprofit organization that promotes after-school programs as a positive resource for the underserved youth on the Peninsula. The club's outreach efforts focus on the youth from East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, who attend the Ravenswood City School District.

"The state and federal programs for schools and after-school activities that help with the development of youth have been cut deeply," said Puckett. "Keeping our children off the streets and participating in activities that build character, ethics and morals is the mission of this track club.

"This is an extremely rigorous task, as the crime rate in the neighborhoods that these kids play, indirectly affect their psyche. The reward of making it to the nationals and actually attending them keep these kids on the right path to success. Part of their pride comes from representing their families, neighborhoods and the entire Bay Area."

Club members advancing from the qualifying event earlier this month in Reno included Keyshawn Ashford (Sub-Midget), Mekhi Blackmon (Midget), Kevin Lagarde (Primary), Denise Stine (Sub-Bantam), Emma Chiao (Sub-Midget), LaJon Harris (Sub-Midget), Justin Chiao (Sub-Bantam), Makiya Francis (Intermediate), Dejeane Stine (Midget), Jailah Francis (Midget), a girls' 400 relay team (Midget) of Jailah Francis, Taevia Vauss, Niyha Brooks and Stine, plus a boys' 400 relay team (Midget) of Floyd Gazaway, Ashford, Harris and Blackmon.

Ashford was first in the 200 (28.20) and second in the 100 (13.63); Blackmon was sixth in the 100 (13.75) and seventh in the 200 (28.01); Lagarde was fifth in the 400 (1:24.00) and eighth in the 200 (32.58); Denise Stine was second in the shot put (18-1) and fourth in the 400 (1:22.16); Dejeane Stine was ninth in the 400 (1:11.77); Emma Chiao was second in the 800 (3:01.17); Harris was seventh in the 100 (15.71) and 200 (33.31); Justin Chiao was sixth in the fifth in the 800 (3:01.17) and sixth in the 400 (1:14.99); Makiya Francis was fourth in the long jump (15-9 1/2); Jailah Francis was third in the shot put (20-4); while the girls' relay finished second in 56.92 and the boys were third in 55.79.

The team is coached by Michael Davidson.

For those interested in helping defray the club's $18,000 travel expenses, tax-deductible donation can be made at the club's website at For more information, contact Lerisa Puckett at (650) 468-3115.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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