Young Merced track club members competing at National Championships
10 from Minds In Motion are competing this week in Sacramento
After the Times featured a young Atwater track star who is going to the National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships in Sacramento this week, we received a flurry of emails and social media posts about other local athletes who will be competing at the event as well.
One track club in Merced — known as “Minds In Motion” — has 10 athletes, ages 7 to 18, who qualified for nationals and are competing in multiple categories this week. By Sunday, we should know how many of them made it to the podium and received a medal.
“This isn’t our first time,” says Rafeeq Hassaan, the club’s head coach. “We’ve had more than 20 of our club members attend nationals in the past.”
Nevertheless, Hassaan says he’s impressed with his group this year, including 14-year-old Lorenzo Peters, who will compete in the 100m dash, the 200m, and the long jump. Peters qualifying jump at 19 feet, 4 inches has been the best mark in the state so far this year.
The Minds In Motion 4×100 relay team, featuring Maurice McGauley, Jalon Jackson, Jaxson Percoats and Naseen Hassaan, is also expected to medal if the team members perform as expected.
Coach Hassaan, who is also the head Track & Field coach at El Capitan High School, says the private club Minds In Motion is one of the best-kept secrets in Merced.
“I just got back to focusing on the club and dealing with the younger athletes,” he says. “The organization is going through a rebirth this year. We don’t do tryouts. We accept athletes based on the amount of coaches we have.”
The club is finishing up this year’s season with about 25 young athletes. New signups start in November, and they hope to bring in up to 40 new kids.
However, as the name indicates, Minds In Motion is more than young people running and jumping as fast and as far as they can.
“We want to lead with our minds,” Coach Hassaan says. “We do a thing called a Report Card Party — something I also implemented at El Cap. When my kids get a 3.5 GPA or better, they are awarded with gold spikes for their track shoes, trophies and other acknowledgements.”
The 18-year-old McGauley, an El Capitan grad who will be attending Fresno State, says he owes his success to the Minds In Motion coaches and program.
“Words cannot describe how much they have molded me, how much they took me in with open arms,” he says. “I can’t even tell you how much I was struggling, but the coaching here, the environment here, is perfect for growth, learning and reaching your full potential.”
McGauley points out he has been with the club for close to five years, and this week’s meet is his first after he suffered a hamstring injury during his senior season.
“They got me back in shape,” he says. “It feels like I’m back home.”
The club’s youngest National qualifier, 7-year-old Isiah Cole of Fremont School, is ready to make his mark in three events, the 100m, 200m and the Long Jump. He placed first in all three at Regionals.
“All my brothers are in the club, and this is my first year — but I’m staying,” he says confidently.
He smiles and adds: “I’m also getting on the podium this week.”
Local resident, Virginia Ann Riley, wrote to the Times: “These are young people from Merced that have practiced each week, have participated in numerous meets throughout California, and have qualified for this National competition. They are excited and would like the Merced community to know about them and support them. Coach Hassaan has a sincere and caring heart for each of these young people, and it would be wonderful if Merced County Times could acknowledge them for their accomplishments.”
Among the Minds In Motion members who will be competing this week at Nationals in Sacramento, are:
• Isiah Cole, 7, Fremont School; 100m, 200m, Long Jump
• Xavien Cole, 10, Fremont School; 80m Hurdles, 100m
• Tyler Peters, 10; 100m, 200m
• Rylee Hagger, 13, Rivera School; 100m, 200m, Long Jump
• Lorenzo Peters, 14, Cruickshank; 100m, 200m, Long Jump
• Jalon Jackson, 18; 4×100 relay
• Maurice McGauley, 18; 4×100 relay
• Jaxson Percoats, 17, Buhach Colony High; 100m, 4×100 relay
• Naseen Hassaan, 18; 100m, 200m, 4×100 relay
Those interested in Minds In Motion can visit the website: centralvalleysportsacademy.org. Contact Coach Hassaan at (510) 545-2865.