By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
Seven Union boys will venture to the Portland area this weekend for the Oregon State Junior Olympics.
Chad Dodds, co-coach of the Union junior high track and Union track club, said the club consists of those who truly love track.
Among the club members are the 4x400 undefeated eighth grade relay team and Klamath Walker, who went undefeated in the 1,500 meters and 800 all season.
"Mental visualization," Tom Stratton recalled Monday during practice at Eastern Oregon University track.
Stratton explained that coach Dodds said to picture themselves in each event and do good with each step.
Stratton, 13, will be competing in the 800 meters, 400, 100 hurdles and long jump.
He is involved in football, basketball and wrestling at his school.
Stratton said he enjoys football and track a great deal because it "takes a lot of power and effort and preparation."
He wants to win the 800 because he is undefeated against other seventh graders in junior high.
Dodds said there is no league, because the team competes against schools in La Grande, Pendleton, Baker, John Day, North Powder, Cove, Imbler, Wallowa, Enterprise and Elgin.
Kasey Towne, 14, will try to exceed his personal best of 31 1/2 feet in the triple jump.
Towne said he wants to jump at least 33 1/2. He competes in soccer, football and basketball in school. He is looking forward to this weekend.
"I just hope it's fun," Towne said with a chuckle.
Gavin Watson, 14, plays football and basketball at school.
Watson got involved in track because someone said he had a "strong running form" in PE class.
Watson will be competing in the 4x400 relay, 4x100 and long jump.
Both relays should do well, he said while catching his breath at the end of practice.
Watson said the junior high team has been first in almost every meet.
"We've improved our time drastically," he said.
Watson said he's working on his long jump form, getting out of the blocks and conditioning.
"Just staying in shape and having fun running," he said.
Dodds said about 500 kids will compete this weekend.
The top five this weekend will qualify for the USATF Region 13 Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships meet in Cheney, Wash, in July. Track athletes from Oregon, Washington, Northern Idaho and Alaska will be at that event.
The top two at regionals qualify for the national meet in Omaha, Neb.