By Corey Roepken
The Daily News
Published July 20, 2008
GALVESTON - Tierny Foreman, Amber Jackson and Dymond Milburn enjoy sleeping and watching television, but they know it’s not the most productive way to spend the summer.
Instead, the three teenagers have spent the majority of their weekends running and jumping their way to a pair of national championship track and field meets.
The trio comprises three members of the Island Tides Track Club, a second-year venture by former Ball High School track coach Marvin Welch. The athletes range from 6 years old to 16. They have competed in meets almost every weekend since the end of May.
Practicing in the summer heat can be bothersome at times, especially when Welch is barking out orders to his exhausted membership from the other side of the track.
“There are times when we yelled at coach, ‘I’m going to quit if you make me do that,’” Milburn said. “We didn’t really mean it, but it was hard to realize the extra work was meant to help us when we were so tired.”
All that extra work has paid off nicely. Ten athletes have qualified for the AAU national championships or the United States Track and Field Junior Olympics. Two of them, Foreman and Bria Boyd, have qualified for both.
At the USATF Region XII Championships in Fort Worth, the 12-year-old Boyd won the long jump, finished second in the 100-meter dash and finished third in the 200. Foreman qualified for the Junior Olympics with a fourth-place finish in the long jump. The Junior Olympics are in Omaha, Neb., this week.
Eight others will join Boyd and Foreman at the AAU national championships in Ypsilanti, Mich., Saturday through Aug. 2.
They are Christian Welch, Christopher Welch, Jade Stubblefield, Kiara Anderson, Dezmon Tinsley, Destiny Tinsley, Jackson, Milburn and Holly Henderson.
Marvin Welch said the second year has been a breath of fresh air. He did not have as many kids in the program but said he had better commitment from the parents - something he said is essential to the success of the club.
It also helps, he said, that the kids have adopted better attitudes. Though they may not want to do more intervals when they’re tired, they push themselves. They also have shown interest in trying new events.
“The athletes’ attitudes have been a lot better, too,” Welch said. “Because of that, our medal count has been a lot bigger. We didn’t place half as much last year as we have this year.”
The Island Tides have done it without Welch’s assistant coach, Ben Mays, one of the leaders of the Ball High track teams that dominated at the state level in the 1970s.
Mays has been ill and not able to help out as much. Welch said Mays was instrumental during the first year when the growing pains got to him.
Mays helped to keep Welch’s head on straight and to keep his focus on the right things. Welch said he and the athletes have dedicated this season to Mays.
Welch is taking his coaching skills north to Dickinson High School, where he will oversee the girls track program.
That does not mean the Island Tides will go away. Welch said he and Mainland Jaguars coach William Bennefield have discussed merging their two programs to form an all-encompassing team for Galveston County.
If this year’s success with the Island Tides is a sign of things to come, Jackson said the bigger program should be even better. The extra practice during the summer has Jackson, Milburn and Foreman looking forward to what they’ll accomplish during the high school season with the Lady Tors.
“This year has been better than last year,” Jackson said. “We’ve grown as a team, and we’ve formed a sisterly bond. We will be going to state this year. There’s no question about it.