A local girl will head to the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Championships next week, with a chance to bring home a gold medal in an event she tried for the first time this year.
Alana Armstrong-Solomon, 10, earned her Junior Olympic berth by taking first place in the shot put at the USATF Regionals in Jacksonville, setting a personal record of 26.6 Feet (8.1m) to beat the best shot putters in her age group in a field made up of athletes from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Alana’s father, Marquis Solomon, said he was not surprised when his daughter expressed interest in track, because her mother competed as a runner in high school and college. Alana began running with Irmo-Chapin Recreation Commission’s The Storm track club last year. Still, Solomon laughed and said he never saw shot put coming.
“She was into dance and competitive cheer: makeup, jumping, flipping,” he said. “Now she throws a metal ball.”
For her part, Alana said “Basically everybody on my track team kept on telling me to do shot put,” and she eventually decided to give it a try. She had previously done only running events, but her Storm Track coach and her parents encouraged her, with her coach teaching her the glide technique for shot put.
“She took to it,” Solomon said. “It allows her to throw with competitors who are bigger than her.” Alana is a quiet girl, a bit unusual in an event known for its intensity, with many competitors grunting or yelling as they put the shot.
“She’s so mild-mannered,” Solomon said. “She’ll go out there and throw a record and then just kind of walk away.”
Alana is not one to brag about her accomplishments, but said she loves shot put and is excited about the chance to compete for a national championship just a few months after picking up the six pound shot put (used in her age group) for the first time. Asked if shot put is more difficult than running, she replied with a shy smile and a simple answer: “Not really.”
The trip to Kansas for the Junior Olympic meet July 24-30 is an expensive one. Alana has already received the support of her parents, coach and teammates, but additional help from the community is needed to cover the expense of the trip. Those interested in giving may donate here.