It’s rare for a youngster to qualify for the Junior Olympics from a given town.
But what are the chances of not only two kids from the same town, but cousins on top of that, qualifying?
Starlyn Edwards, 14, and her cousin Kaden Calhoun, 15, will be going to the AAU Junior Olympics in Houston, Texas from July 31 to Aug. 7. Edwards qualified for the 800, 1,500 and 3,000-meter runs, and according to her mother Monica Edwards, she will compete in the first two events.
“It’s really amazing to have this opportunity to compete at the Junior Olympics,” Starlyn said. “I’m grateful to not only represent myself, but my family, school, coaches, and anyone who helped me get this far.”
Calhoun will compete in the 400-meter hurdles and the high jump. “It means the world to me to show everyone what a small town kid can do,” he said.
And Calhoun joked about one of the events in which he will be competing.
“Don’t trip over something you can run over,” he quipped.
The two, though related, come from completely different athletic backgrounds.
“Starlyn only started 10 months ago,” said Monica Edwards, “and she fell in love with [running] – and she’s really good.”
Noting Starlyn, an incoming ninth-grader at Paragould High School, runs 35 miles a week, Edwards acknowledged her daughter has nevertheless had to work at being good at the sport. “She’s very determined and focused,” she said.
Calhoun, on the other hand, is what Edwards called a “natural athlete.” And his mother Bri Smith would likely agree.
“He’s broken several records [at Paragould] and holds the record for the 300-meter hurdles,” Smith said. “He also does the long jump, the high jump, the triple jump and the 100-meter dash.”
She added her son also plays football and basketball. “He only started basketball in eighth grade, but he started every game,” she said. “He’s a born athlete, but he’s also very dedicated.”
And Calhoun has been interested in athletics from an early age, she said. “He started playing sports in third grade,” Smith said, “but started track in seventh.”
Both moms expressed delight at their children’s achievements. “This is amazing,” said Edwards.
“We’re really stoked,” added Smith. “We are so proud.”
Edwards said that similar to the adult Olympics, Junior Olympians have the chance to win gold, silver or bronze medals. “There are eight medals for a given event,” she said. “First place is gold, second is silver, and the rest are bronze.”
The event, organized by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), dates back to 1967 when the first Junior Olympic Games took place in Washington, D.C. Athletes from all 50 states and several United States territories participate. This year marks the 55th Junior Olympic Games. According to its web site, the AAU Junior Olympic Games are regarded as the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the United States. The games, open to athletes younger than 18, have become the showcase event of the AAU Sports Program.
The AAU was founded in 1888 to establish standards and uniformity in amateur sports.