It didn’t take long for people to realize the speed of Camden Criesco.
The 12-year-old Magnolia student joined the cross country team in fourth grade at Alta Sierra and beat the Magnolia Intermediate record for the 200-yard dash in 25 seconds.
Criesco has qualified to attend the National Junior Olympic Games, July 29 to Aug. 3, in Ypsilanti, Mich.
“I’m pretty excited because this is basically one step below the Olympics,” he said. “It feels really good knowing that I might be on TV, since this is being filmed. It’s really nice knowing it’s that big of a deal.”
Criesco continued with cross country and qualified for the Junior Olympics after competing in the Junior National Championships last week in Reno. Criesco won seventh place in the 200-meter and second in the 400-meter among 1,000 students, said his father, Vince Criesco.
When Camden Criesco was younger, he played soccer and other sports, always surpassing the other kids, his father said.
“We noticed, out of all the other kids, that he was flying down the fields,” he said. “This kid is fast.”
Camden Criesco said he has always enjoyed running compared to more aggressive sports.
“I just like the freedom of running because it’s not like contact with other sports, where you basically have to beat each other up,” he said.
Camden Criesco trained every day with his father or Magnolia Intermediate head coach Pete Negri, using a series of stretches, runs, sit-ups and push-ups.
“I usually get an hour and a half of training, seven days a week,” he said. “I think without that, I wouldn’t be able to make it, so I think it paid off.”
Four other athletes also qualified for the National Junior Olympic games — Cameron Ramsour in long jump, Dorian Poppenberg and Sam Nichols in the 400-meter dash and Brittany Mouck in shot-put.
“Not in our wildest dreams did we expect this degree of success at the West Coast Junior Olympics,” Negri said. “We are thrilled at the success and proud of each of our athletes.”
Negri just hopes the students can afford to attend.
“We really need the community’s financial help and support with donations and sponsorships so these local Junior Olympians can compete at the national level,” he said.
Vince Criesco has received support from co-workers and his parents, though he said Camden still has a need.
Camden Criesco’s family set up a donation account through Bank of the West, where contributors can opt to make a gift donation to Camden Criesco.
“I’m very proud. I can’t be more pleased with him,” Vince Criesco said. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime. We had no idea how far we could go, and I don’t want to stop.”
To donate to the qualifying Magnolia Track and Field students, contact Negri at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4230.