Walker Elrod punches ticket to Junior Olympics in North Carolina

Published 1:56 pm Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Walker Elrod is well known throughout the Bainbridge running community. Now, he is making a name for himself nationally, as he has just qualified for the Junior Olympics to be held in North Carolina in August.

While Elrod is a cross-country runner through Grace Christian Academy, he qualified through Tallahassee’s Zoom Track Club.

Through the Track Club, Elrod first had to run a district race for the Northeast district of Florida, followed by a region race in the 3000m.

There are 25 regions total, which each send the top six finishers from that age category to the Junior Olympics.

Elrod is in the 13-14 age category, which his mother, Samantha Rentz, considers the ideal age group.

“He’s 14, so he’s the top of the age group, which is an advantage,” she said.

Elrod agreed, but said he is not backing down from his goal, which is to finish in the Top 8 with a time of under 9.50 at the Junior Olympics.

Elrod and his mother both know he will face some tough competition, especially from Texas and South Florida.

“They’re extremely competitive in that region, while our region is not quite as competitive” Rentz said.

In order to prepare for the big race, Elrod said he has been completing his regular runs, while training with his cross-country team.

“I’m going to treat this race just like a cross-country race, so I’m not doing anything different for it,” Elrod said.

The Junior Olympics will last a total of one week. Elrod said that some runs will have preliminary races upon arrival. However, his race, due to its length will just be the final run.

If Elrod meets his goal, he said he will be given an All American title.

Although Elrod is excited about the event, he said he does not intend on returning if invited next year, because it takes away from his regular cross country training with his team.

“When you do long-distance cross country running, it’s like a bank account,” he said. “When I do all these races before the regular season that’s taking money out of the account, unlike when I just practice and do basic training that’s putting money into the account.”

The race will take place on August 6. Following the run, Elrod will then return to Bainbridge and begin competing with the GCA Cross Country team for the regular season.