Heritage School's Parker ready to compete at Junior Olympics
By DOUG GORMAN
(This is the first in a series of stories on the four local athletes getting ready to compete in the AAU Junior Olympic track and field championships later this summer in Texas).
The Heritage School’s rising senior has qualified for the Junior Olympics in the Heptathlon, one of the most demanding events in track and field.
It combines seven events and covers two days, including, the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin throw and 800 meters.
This will be Parker’s second trip to the Junior Olympics to compete in the multi-sport event.
She is one of four athletes from Coweta County to advance to this year’s track and field showcase.
Northgate track standouts Kemoy Anderson and Hailey Gollnick along with rising East Coweta freshman Courtlen Burke III will also compete at the Junior Olympics in Humble, Texas from July 28 through August 4.
Parker qualified for the trip with second-place performances in the long jump, shot put and 800 meters. She also took third in the javelin and 100-meter hurdles at a Junior Olympic qualifying event.
“She has just worked so hard,” said her father Dennis. “She spends at least five-to-eight hours a day working on getting better.”
Parker is strong in all the events that make up the Heptathlon, but her favorite is perhaps the most obscure event – the javelin.
“It really is probably my favorite event,” she said. “I had never thrown the javelin before, but I am starting to learn the right way to do it.”
Parker impressed the track community last year when she picked up the heptathlon late in the summer and qualified for her first Junior Olympics after training for just three weeks.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing, and didn’t have too much time to train,” she said. “I just went out there and did my best. I didn’t really have a whole lot of expectations.
My coaches approached me and told me I should try it because they thought I would be pretty good at it.”
Although still new to track and field, Parker has been an athlete most of her life, starting with gymnastics.
“Gymnastics was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said. “It really prepared me to run track.”
Now days, Parker trains as much as eight hours a day in an effort to get ready for her second trip to the Junior Olympics.
“I work with different people on speed and getting stronger.”
She also competes with the Southside Pioneers, a local AAU track and field team.
Parker has also learned a little bit about sticking with it when the road gets rocky.
Most of her last high school season was derailed in the spring after her injured knee required surgery.
“The rehab hurt, but I was determined to get back with my teammates at the end of the year,” she said.
Parker made it in time to help lead the Lady Hawks to a region title and a third-place GISA finish.
“That was awesome to finish third, and I was just glad I could get back with my team in time to help out.”
Dennis isn’t surprised his daughter made the transition from gymnastics to track and field.
“She is just so coachable,” he said. “She was determined to be really good.”
Dennis and his wife Sharon found out how serious she was earlier this summer when she continued to train on her own even when she was away from home with the youth choir from Newnan First Baptist.
“She would text us to let us know she had found a track and was continuing to work out,” he said. “We were a little bit worried because we were like, you don’t even know where you are.”
Parker is excited about her upcoming trip to Texas and beyond.
“I just want to go out there and do my best,” she said. “I would love to turn in a top-8 finish.”
Parker also knows this could be the most important time in her track career.
“I am looking forward to the high school track and field season, and then running in college,” she said.