LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Brother and sister, Zachary and Amy Flint have big Olympic dreams.
The two Laurel County youths have qualified for the AAU Junior Olympic Track and Field Games in Houston, Texas, July 30 to Aug. 5.
Zach, 12, qualified to compete in discus, by placing fourth in the AAU regional competition in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday. Amy, 11, qualified to compete in high jump by placing second.
At the regional qualifier next weekend in Cedarville, Ohio, the duo also hopes for a chance to compete in the USATF championships. They worked their way up from district level, competing in AAU, USATF and Bluegrass track and field games.
“There are only four girls competing in high jump, so Amy will qualify (for the USATF championships), but Zach has a little more competition,” said Tiffany Flint, their mother.
Each has to make the top 10 to qualify for the prestigious honor.
The USATF Junior Olympics will be held in Baltimore, Md., July 25 to 29, prior to the start of AAU championships. Many of today’s Olympic stars started their track and field careers by participating as youths in the USATF Junior Olympics.
“When we started this track journey, we didn’t really understand the numerous opportunities for all children in track,” Flint said. “Anyone can find something they can excel in.”
The siblings started track and field together two years ago by attending a free summer program for youth in Louisville, where the family lived.
“It was a way for my son to stay in condition for football, but it opened up a world of opportunity we did not even know existed,” Flint said. “We had no idea where it’d take us.”
The family moved to London from Louisville in October 2011 when Tiffany Flint was relocated by JC Penney to manage the Corbin store. “The sense of community here is really great,” Flint said. She said she was very touched by how to the community rallied together to help their neighbors following the deadly March 2 tornado. The Corbin store donated clothing and shoes to local elementary school students affected by the tornado, and its employees took up a collection to donate additional winter, spring, and summer clothing for the children.
“Coming from a bigger city, you don’t get that there,” she said.
Flint, who is certified to coach through the AAU, hopes to start a track and field camp, similar to the one her children participated in Louisville, in the London area in the summer of 2013.
“It’d be for kids ages 8 to 13, to help keep kids healthy and build their confidence.” Flint emphasized that any child can find their niche in track and field.
“There’s a lot of talent in this area,” Flint said. “They can be a thrower, runner, or jumper. And if you can start early, they get experience and they can be phenomenal.” During her high school years, Flint also competed in track and field in the areas of shot put, discus and long jump. She, and her husband, Christopher, have even taken a turn competing in AAU track and field contests this year in the masters age division.
“It’s the over 40 crowd,” she said with a laugh. “So, it’s truly become a family affair. But our main focus is coaching them (Zach and Amy).”
Zach was already in football and basketball, and Amy was a cheerleader. But the two found so many more athletic outlets to choose from in track.
“They are very focused for 11 and 12 year olds,” Flint said. “They get along really well.”
Amy regularly competes in long jump, high jump, discus and shot put. Amy will be attending North Laurel Middle School in the fall where she hopes to join the track team.
A seventh grader at NLMS, Zach competed with the school track team last season. He competes in shot put, discus and turbo javelin. This is Amy’s second year for the AAU Junior Olympics. She and Zach both qualified for the USATF Junior Olympics last year.
In 2011, the AAU championships were held in New Orleans, La., and the USATF were held in Wichita, Kan. The family packed up and drove to both locales, making it a family road trip of sorts. However, because the two events this year are being held within a day of one another and not two weeks apart, the Flints cannot hope to drive and must fly in order get their children to both games.
“We put a lot of miles on the car (last year) to get to and from both competitions,” Flint said. “But there’s not a way to drive it this year.”
And, the trip will be exponentially more expensive. Trying to send both children to both championships, the family has set up a website for donations at http://www.gofundme.com/rtuz4. Donations can also be made at Hometown Bank under “Junior Olympics, in care of Tiffany Flint.”