Members of the Fast Lane Track Club have worked since February to reach this point.
The club's fifth and final meet, the AAU Junior Olympic Games, falls at the end of this month and will be held in New Orleans. When the meet begins, members of the club will have practiced three times a week for close to five months.
"We've been training hard this year," said coach James Franklin, whose team practices at Hilton Head High's track. "That's part of the reason we have a lot of kids at nationals."
Franklin said several athletes should have a chance to finish high at nationals after they finished strong at the regional qualifier.
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Fast Lane has grown steadily each year. Last year, 11 young athletes qualified for the national meet. This year, Franklin said he will bring 28, more than the number of competitiors from the past two years combined. The club's qualifiers include nine individual races and four relay teams.
Franklin credited the club's relationship with the Island Rec Center for helping get the word out and said other athletes sought out the club after media coverage. Kids who ran cross country or track in school did not know the club existed, but decided to join after hearing about it.
"This is what I've been trying to achieve the past five years," Franklin said. "So we're definitely moving in the right direction."
The AAU Junior Olympic Games are divided into several age groups, ranging from Primary (those born 2003 or later) to Young Men and Young Women (those born in 1994 or 1995). Much of the Fast Lane team includes athletes in the Sub-Midget and Midget Divisions -- 11- and 12-year-olds.
Eight of the team's athletes this year are from Bluffton, and Franklin hopes to expand to have satellite teams in Bluffton, Hardeeville and Ridgeland. He said next year would be his target for a Bluffton team and that he has interest from coaches willing to work with the new groups. The teams still would compete under the Fast Lane name.
Fast Lane is an AAU program but utilizes its relationship with the Island Rec Center, a non-profit, to receive grants. In addition to the grants, Franklin said the team has held car washes and bake sales to help fund trips and equipment. Franklin said the team is still a little short on needed funds, but that the pressure on parents has been lifted.
"The Rec Center goes out and gets money from various businesses," Franklin said. "We couldnt do it without them. They work hard for us."
2011 AAU JUNIOR OLYMPIC GAMES
What: Members of the Fast Lane Track Club will compete against various youth athletes from throughout the country
When: July 30 to Aug. 6
Where: New Orleans
4x800: Lance Jackson, Sterling White, Landon Jenkins, Bryan Allen, Alex Braden; 4x100: Jaquell Williams, Jose Gayton, Rylee Brown, James Franklin; 4x400 (midget): Jose Gayton, Jaquell williams, James Franklin, Rylee Brown; 4x400 (youth): Clarence Perry, Joseph Robinson, Jack Beattie, Samuel Beattie; Shot put: Cedric Knighten, Jaylen Sneed, Curtis Johnson; Discus: Harvey King, River Carter; Javelin: Miles Wedeking; High jump: John Baty, Christopher Skager, Zayqoun Chisolm; 200-meter dash: James Franklin; 400-meter dash: Christopher Skager; 800-meter dash: Rylee Brown; 100-meter hurdles: John Baty; 1500-meter run: Samuel Beattie; 1500-meter race walk: Alex Braden; 300-meter run: Jack Beattie, Mary Hannah Lewis