By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The name of Elijah Damon Alexander will be on display more than 30 times next week just outside of Detroit as part of the 2017 AAU Junior Nationals Track Meet.
Starting July 27, the track group the EDA Flyers based out of Millington will send 32 qualifiers to the Nationals in Ypsilanti, Mich. The Flyers are composed of children from places like Millington, Cordova, Southaven, Munford, Bartlett and Memphis. Thanks to the vision of EDA director Dennis Alexander and his wife Eunice to honor their late son, the athletes from the Mid-South get to travel to places like Texas and Michigan to showcase their skills.
“My son passed away,” Dennis said. “My wife and I contemplated on doing something to help carry on his name. It came to me one day to just start a track team.
“We started in Feb. 2015 and it just took off like a wildfire,” he continued. “The kid who started it all was Walter Miller. We ran our first track meet at LSU. I took him and a few other kids out of Millington and Munford.”
Miller, recent Millington Central High School graduate, won four medals in his TSSAA track career for the Trojans. The college-bound athlete compiled several honors in AAU with the flyers.
Miller was among the many EDA Flyers to reach Nationals last year. The Flyers had 41 on the team and 18 qualified for AAU Junior Olympics with one National champion in Long Jump courtesy of 8-year-old Efe Aigbomian.
The EDA Flyers age range is from 6 to 18. This year the team had 43 athletes with 32 qualifying for Nationals in Ypsilanti, Mich., next week.
“We would not be able to do what we’re doing without the support of the people,” Alexander said. “Organizations all over Millington have provided so much for us. I would love to mention the Kiwanis Club and the Navy Base Chaplain. There are several businesses that have contributed and donated.
“And we would especially like to thank the military presence that’s all throughout the team,” he continued. “There are a lot of folks who help us out as individual sponsors. And we could not do it without the parents. They come out there to all the track meets. They work all these different types of fundraisers. They’re out there in the heat. That’s what makes your program, parents coming out supporting their kids and others.”
Alexander and the executive staff include assistant director Linda Mosley, Maria Mugno, Nikki Greil and Pamela Haley.
Also supporting the children are the coaches starting with Alexander and Assistant Head Coach Anthony Ragland. Other coaches on the staff are Tramaine Clay, Stewart Thomas, Nick Sciluffo and Devon Hopper.
“You’ve got to get some guys who are seasoned and know the sport,” Alexander noted. “Anthony Ragland, that guy right there has been with me for years in football and track. This guy not only comes out and coaches, but he sponsors. He put in his money and own time with kids.
“Then we have great guys like Nick,” he added. “We have some guys who might not know a lot about track, but they’re going to put in the time to pick up on it and learn it. They know what it takes to help this organization and about being a positive role model for these kids.”
Alexander said the most important part of the operation for the EDA Flyers is the children.
“We cover a multitude,” he said. “We might not have the best talent. But that’s not why we’re out there for. We want to give them a chance. You might not be good at running. You might not be good at throwing. But will find something for you to be good at. We have 30 events. We’ll find you something.”
Outside of the track, the Flyers are learning life skills by working fundraisers like cutting grass and washing cars. Alexander said they learn responsibility and accountability.
In addition, the program opens up the children to scholarship opportunities. Alexander, who ran track in college, said a lot of scholarship money is left on the table across the country each year in track.
This year Miller is getting a full ride to college in Kentucky and another Flyer will walk-on at The University of Memphis.
Those college-bound athletes will help in carrying on the legacy of Elijah.
“I’m very proud,” Alexander said. “I’m very proud we can use his name. For us it’s a ministry. My wife and I get to help out and carry on his name.
“It might be something you’re going through,” he concluded. “We can talk out some things. It might be a kid having some problems or a family issue. They can come and talk to us. That outlet is there not only for the kids, but the parents and even the coaches. It’s a family.”
List of Qualifiers for 2017 AAU Track and Field Junior Olympics, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Walter Miller – Team Captain, 100, 200, 400 meters and 4×100 relay
Efe Aigbomian, 200, 400 meters, Long Jump (2016 AAU Junior Olympic Champion, girls 8 and under long jump)
Efe Aigbomian, 200 meters, 4×400 relay, long jump
Isabella Mendez, 800 meter, alt 4×400 relay
Jaelyn Coleman, 3000 race walk
Jasmine Nerivarela, long jump, 4×400 relay
Kala Christopher, long jump
Kyara Haley, Shot Put, Javelin
Kymia Kendrick, 4×400 relay
Maiya Redd, 4×400 relay
Matrice White, 4×400 relay
Morgan Mitchell, high jump, 400 meter dash, 4×400 meter relay
Onyx-Magno Hester, Javelin Throw
Regina Pratcher, 4×400 Relay
Adrian Dowell, 800 Meter Run, 4×100, 4×400, 4×800
Brandon Greil, 80 meter hurdles, long jump, outdoor pentathlon
Kaleb Allen, turbo Javelin
Christian Lucious, 1500 meter run
Christian Woods, 800 meter run, triple jump, 4×100 and 4×800 relays
Corey Smith, 100, 200, 400 meter dashes, high jump
Donovan Sciluffo, 4×100, 4×400, triple jump
Ezekiel Miller, Outdoor pentathlon, 4×100, 4×400, alt 4×800
Hunter Magno Hester, 4×100 relay Alt
Jeffrey Taylor, 4×100 relay alt
Justin Eugene, 200 meter hurdles, 4×400 relay, 4×800 relay
Kapelle Eugene, Triple Jump, Javelin Throw
Lamarucs Blaydes, turbo javelin
Leandra Cooper, 4×100 relay
Tyrese Winfrey, 110 High Hurdles, 4×100 Relay
Xavier Haley, 400 meter dash, 4×100 and 4×800 relays
Zachary Johnson, 400 meter dash and 4×100 relay
EDA FLYERS 2017 PARTNERS AND DONORS
Millington Kiwanis Club
Tate Brothers Tire and Automotive, Millington, TN
Manila Filipino Restaurant, Millington, TN
NSA Mid-South Chapel, Millington, TN
Boatwright Pharmacy, Millington, TN
Olympic Steak and Pizza , Millington, TN
C and N Dry Cleaners, Millington, TN
Turner Family Dentistry, Munford, TN
Bethlehem Baptist Church, Millington, TN
Goode’s T-Shirt/Printing Service
NSA Mid-South First Class Petty Officer’s Association
Walmart Millington, TN
Also many personal sponsors and donors from the City of Millington and NSA Mid-South Navy Base.