Shamali Whittle and Trenton High’s rising junior Athing Mu show off their haul of seven medals — five gold and two silver — earned at the Junior Olympics while running for the Trenton Track Club.
By Rich Fisher
Shamali Whittle’s quotes in this story came directly from interviews posted on the MileSplit USA website. Links to the full interviews are at the end of this story
Aug. 8: The Al Jennings-coached Trenton Track Club was in dazzling form at the recently held AAU Junior Olympics Championship, and Hamilton Township’s favorite up-and-coming speedster was in the middle of all the glow.
Rising Nottingham High freshman Shamali Whittle won two gold medals and one silver at the event in Des Moines, Iowa, which ran from July 30-Aug. 4. Whittle celebrated his 14th birthday in fine style, taking gold in the 100-meter hurdles (13.41 seconds) and 200 hurdles (24.51).
“It’s surreal,” Whittle said. “I wanted to win Junior Olympics. This is my second time coming here, I was desperate for a win, I’m glad I came through.”
And he’s coming back next year.
“I want to defend my title,” Whittle said.
Shamali, who owns the AAU Club National record in the 100 hurdles at 13.30, said of his race, “I was just trying to get out very hard, I wanted to get everybody on the first hurdle which I ended up doing. It was a very hard, competitive race. I heard lots of hurdles getting knocked, I’m just happy I pulled through at the end of the race and got the victory.”
In the 200 hurdles, Whittle just grinded it out.
“I liked (the race) a lot, it was very good,” he said. “After the third hurdle I was shuffling the whole way. I’m just glad I won the race with a personal best, I’m very proud of myself. It was a good race by my competitors too.
“I was a little tired (after prelims the previous day). I had a good night’s rest, played some video games last night, that got me very pumped up to race, and I listened to some music.”
The Mercerville resident also took silver in the 200 meters, and his time of 22.48 in the semifinals would have placed him in fourth at last spring’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III sectionals behind future Northstar teammates Dana Ridley and Louis Abpadogo.
After closing the summer season with dual gold medals in both the club championship and JO’s, Whittle said, “I’m riding a high now going into high school. I’m very excited.”
Just think how Nottingham coach Jon “Big Dawg” Adams feels. Especially since Whittle is setting some high goals heading into ninth grade.
“I want to go to New Balance (Nationals) very bad; I want to get one of those bags they give out every year,” he said with a grin. “I want to go sub-55 in the 400 hurdles. In the 200 meters I want to go 21, or mid-21, and in the 110 hurdles a sub-14 is the goal.”
Let the games begin.
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A total of seven TTC athletes came away with 11 medals, including five golds.
Athing Mu, rising 11th grader at Trenton Central HS, dominated the 15/16 female age class with three gold medals in the 400 (52.77), 800 (2:07.54) and 1500 (4:38.78s). She also sprinted to silver in the 200 (23.63 PR in prelims). Mu’s runs just missed national records in the 400 and 800
As a result of her dominant performances, Mu won the Joel Ferrell Memorial Award for Outstanding Female Athlete of the Championships.
TTC’s other standouts included medalists and AAU All-American athletes Sanaa Hebron (400m 14U female, 4th 56.21), Savion Hebron (17/18 male, 100, 6th, 10.99; 200, 7th, 21.93) and Michael Conover (800, 17/18 male, 8th, 1:57,92s).