Tahj Clements practices his craft on base at Cherry Point Air Station.
The high jumper, and rising sophomore at Havelock High, doesn’t have a pit to work on his routine.
He finds other ways to improve on his high-jumping skills.
“I know the techniques and how it’s supposed to be done. After I jump, I look to the stands and I will be told what I did wrong and I will correct it the next jump,” Clements said. “I do drills that help me jump in the pit. We work in the sand which makes your legs strong which helps me jump higher.”
Clements, along with four other Craven County track and field athletes, will compete at next week’s USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Outdoor Championships in Humble, Tex.
The national meet starts Monday until July 27.
New Bern natives Trekel Lockett, Caleb DeRoache, Quincy Rasin and Journee McDaniel also qualified for the J.O. Championships.
They all qualified at the regionals in Durham last weekend.
Clements has been running track with the Havelock Track Club. He didn’t make the high school track team in the fall.
Now, with his high jump of 5-feet, 7 inches, will be competing against the best in the nation.
“It feels good to prove to them why I should have made the team. It makes me feel like they should look at more people,” Clements said. “I have way more confidence now because I know what I can do.”
Clements first picked up high jump in the fifth grade.
Since then, with help from his club track coach LeDerrick Hunter, Clements has learned to trust in his jumping abilities.
“I’m nervous, but I am calm at the same time. I trust in my abilities to do high jump,” he said. “I’m going to do what I do and hope for the best.”
New Bern High rising juniors Lockett and DeRoache will join Bears’ graduate Quincy Rasin and Eastern Wayne’s Lavoris Vick in the 4x400-meter relay. Their qualifying time is 3:17.
“I’m looking for it to be hot and a lot of people there,” Lockett said. “I hope we can PR, but it’s going to be in a different atmosphere.”
Lockett, DeRoache, Vick and Eastern Wayne’s Romello Hamilton will run in the 4x100-meter relay. They qualified with a time of 42.42.
“We at least want to get in the top three or somewhere close to that,” DeRoache said. I try not to think about it. I try to think of it like any other track meet so I don’t get nervous.”
Then there’s 10-year old track sensation Journee McDaniel. McDaniel is ranked 14th in the nation, in her age group, in the long jump.
She qualified for the J.O. Championships with a leap of 13 feet, 6 1/2 inches.
“This is really big. This is my first year. It feels good to be ranked 14th in the nation,” said McDaniel, a rising fifth grader at Trent Park Elementary School. “I’m looking forward to getting first, second or third. That’s what I am going for.”