The team, which was started by Matanzas assistant football coach Jacob Scott in May 2017, has a chance to compete for a national championship at the AAU Junior Olypmic Games on July 31 through Aug. 5.
When Jacob Scott’s track and field team wants to practice, they don’t usually go to a track — or a field.
Instead, they race to the beach.
Due to the reconstruction of Matanzas High School’s track, Scott, the head coach of Next Level Elites — Flagler County’s only track and field club team — and an assistant football coach at Matanzas, has had to get creative when training his athletes.
He's resorted to holding practices at Flagler Beach, Jungle Hut Road Park and the occasional canal bridge.
“I’ve used every natural environment there is for training,” Scott said.
Scott started the club in May 2017 after recognizing a need to keep Flagler County’s top athletes in competitive shape during the offseason. In addition, Scott started the club with aims of developing the area’s younger talent.
“One of the biggest things that coaches overlook when it comes to performance in track and field is training age,” he said. “A lot of our Flagler kids are somewhat behind when it comes to the rest of the state simply because of training age.”
Currently, the team is comprised of a variety of Matanzas and Indian Trails Middle School students. Next season, Scott said he plans on expanding the group to include even younger age groups.
“My plan is to those get kids who started early to compete at the next level by the time they’re done with my team,” he said.
But the lack of a formal training facility and youths haven’t been the team's only hurdles.
Funding has, too.
Scott doesn't charge kids to join the team, so often times, the kids have to pay out of pocket to compete.
The team has competed in four events so far this summer, including the ESPN Wide World of Sports Disney Track and Field Showcase in Orlando.
The team has hosted a variety of fundraisers to help with expenses. The next fundraiser is at Houligan’s Irish Pub on Thursday, July 27, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will help offset the cost of the next meet, the AAU Junior Olympic Games — the pinnacle of club track — at Eastern Michigan University on July 31 through Aug. 5.
“The finances have been difficult, but we’re finding a way to get through it,” Scott said. “I’ve sacrificed a lot of my time and effort for these kids, and the kids know that I care about them. And once the kids know you care, they’ll do anything for you.”