11-year-old Norfolk girl trains for National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships
Most 11-year-olds spend their summers going on family vacations or hanging out with their friends, but not Jamaya Koehlmoos. She has been training and competing in the heat at Norfolk Catholic High School to get faster. Next week it all comes to a head as she competes at the National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships. It's already her third trip to the event.
"It makes me feel very proud of myself," Jamaya said. "I'm kind of amazed at what I did."
In her previous two trips, Jamaya was at the upper end of her age group. This time around she's on the younger end of the 11-12-year-old division.
"It motivates me because I'm an 11-year-old but I'm running the times of a 12-year-old so I think I'll do pretty good," Jamaya said.
Since her last nationals appearance a year ago, Jamaya has made quite a bit of progress. She has shaved time off her 100 and 200-meter sprints, including about three seconds off her 200-meter time. Marks like those earned her victories in those two events at her regional competition in Fargo, North Dakota earlier this year. At the event, she beat runners from Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"They're hard sometimes, but I've learned to push myself," Jamaya said.
Jamaya fell in love with the sport after her P.E. teacher recommended she give it a try. Inspired by Olympic runners like Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix, Jamaya now has Olympic aspirations of her own. She joined and now competes with the Olympus Track Club in Lincoln.
Jamaya still needed a coach in Norfolk, however, as she can't always train with her team in Lincoln. Her family found former Wayne State College football standout Shon King. He said after realizing how passionate Jamaya was and seeing her work ethic, he was excited to start working with her.
"It's hard enough for kids to get out there and work hard, and let alone for an 11-year-old," King said. "Once I saw she had that drive, I knew she could be something very special."
King said finding and getting to coach a talent like Jamaya is very rare.
"She's going to go out there and give it her all," King said. "She's gonna represent Nebraska the right way."