Standing at 5-foot-2, maybe 5-3 on a good day, Chynna Simmons sprints down the track.

A hop, skip and a jump later, she’s a little more than 36 feet from where she took off with sand over her hands and in her shoes.

The Mountain Pointe sophomore can get rid of the sand, but no one can take away the medal she earned over the July 4 weekend for winning the triple-jump event for her age group at the USTAF Junior Olympics Region 10 Championships.

“I was just overwhelmed with excitement,” Simmons said.

Simmons is one of several area youth athletes participating in the Junior Olympics national event in Houston this weekend.

While the others (Mountain Pointe’s Aaron Ramirez and Desert Vista’s Makenzi Holmes-DiGiovine) have many accomplishments in their backgrounds, this is Simmons’ first big-time performance.

She started running track at an early age, but then switched her focus to soccer. It was just this year when she found her way back to track.

“My soccer coach was talking to the track coach, and said I would have success,” Simmons said. “I never thought about jumping until my coach taught me some of the techniques.”

Simmons will also compete in the long jump, where she took fifth after jumping 16 feet, 5 inches, and the 100 hurdles after she finished fourth with a time of 14.93 seconds.

“When you look at the big picture, it is very important for Chynna to compete. She still has three years of high school remaining, so it is critical that she learns to compete in big meets,” said Mountain Pointe horizontal jumps coach Larry Todd.

“She was extremely nervous at this year’s state meet and did not execute in the long jump as (Mountain Pointe) Coach (Tim) O’Neil planned.”

The jitters she felt at the state meet, however, didn’t find their way to Colorado Springs for regionals. Simmons said she was confident going into the meet.

“But after (a few attempts), I saw I wasn’t up on the board,” said Simmons, who hit 36-2.75 to win it. “I knew I had to step up my game, and I did.”

Todd said this performance should push Simmons to a new level when track season rolls around.

“Chynna’s desire to compete and learn the technical aspects track and field will take her a long way,” he said. “This will cut her learning curve down greatly and potentially catapult her into the elite level during her sophomore campaign.”

Simmons was one of three champions from Ahwatukee as Holmes-DiGiovine, a Desert Vista grad headed to Auburn, won the hammer throw and Mountain Pointe senior Ramirez won the javelin throw in their respective age groups.

Holmes-DiGiovine came in seeded second and determined not to lose to the first seed again, another competitor from Arizona.

She won the hammer with an effort of 137-11 to best Alexandra Collins of Cactus Shadows. Holmes-DiGiovine also finished second in the discus (135-6).

Ramirez said he felt good going into the meet, but the cold weather wasn’t the condition he wanted.

He still managed to win the javelin with a throw of 169-10, while his younger brother, Alex, was second in his 11-12 age group after throwing 140-9.

But with her room for improvement, Simmons is ready for the next step and is excited to be going to nationals.

Todd echoed Simmons’ optimism.

“She has done wonderful things only being in the program for one season, but the best is yet to come. She has all of the components to finish her high school career as one of the best in Arizona history,” said Todd.

• Will Argeros is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.

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