Members of the Tonto Apache Track and Field team have their sights set on top-three finishes at the Arizona Junior Olympic finals and the resulting berths in the Region X championships.
The Arizona JO games will be contested June 16 and 17 at Glendale Community College and the Region X finals will be held July 12 through July 15 in Albuquerque, N.M.
The JO national championships, which pit the top three events from each of the country's regions against one another, will be held July 24-29 in Walnut, Calif.
To earn a seed into the Region X finals, the local athletes must finish among the top three at the Arizona JO championships.
"Almost all of my track members have a chance to go to Region X," coach Billy Joe Winchester said. "It all depends on how hard they want to work and how much they want it."
Among those who are favorites to nail down berths in the region and national championships are brothers Hunter and Val Doka.
In the 2006 JO national championships held at Hughes Stadium on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., both finished among the top 20 in the shot put event.
Hunter Doka, competing in the bantam boys age/sex division, threw the shot 24 feet, 4 inches, to finish 15th among the 32 national qualifiers.
In the youth boys division, Hunter's older brother, Val, was 17th, with a heave of 38 feet, 8 inches. Twenty-nine national qualifiers competed in the division.
In past years, the Tonto team has also qualified Shane Levine, Kindall Begay and Jarred Begay for the national championships.
The national JO meet, which attracts 6,000-plus participants, is one of the most prestigious competitions in the country for young athletes. Many of today's Olympic stars began their track and field careers competing in the JO program.
Winchester said it was the goal of each of his team members at the onset of the season to advance to the JO national championships.
The new season
The road to the big show traveled June 2 and 3 to Glendale Community College where the USA Track and Field (USATF) state championships were held. There, Hunter Doka was second in the bantam boys shot put and Val was runner-up in the intermediate boys shot put.
All Tonto team members participated in the throws events, except for Carolina Guerra, who was 25th in the sub-bantam girls 100-meter dash.
Third-place finishers for the Tonto team at the USATF finals included Jarred Begay, intermediate boys, discus; Justin Johnson, young men, shot put; and Kindall Begay, young women, shot put and discus.
Placing fourth were Ressa Johnson, bantam girls, shot put; Cassie Johnson, midget girls, shot put; and Jarred Begay, intermediate boys, shot put.
Shane Levin was fifth in the intermediate boys, shot put.
Absent from the meet were team members Jordan, Shawtee and Andrea Hinton.
"We are getting them back for the Junior Olympics," Winchester said. "They have a good chance of moving on to the next level."