Cherokee Nation citizen wins bronze in Junior Olympics relay event
Cherokee Nation citizen Kayla Radtke, 12, won the bronze medal with her teammates in the 4x800-meter relay at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games in Greensboro, North Carolina. COURTESY/ANGELA RADTKE-CARTER
SAN ANTONIO – Kayla Radtke wasn’t sure what to expect when competing in her first national track and field meet.
In only her first year of participation, the 12-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen found herself at the championship level in the sport – the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games, held July 30 to Aug. 3 at Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T in Greensboro.
Once the tapes were broken and the times recorded, Radtke and her 4x800-meter relay team were bronze medalists for the San Antonio Swift Track Club. She and her teammates Caila Lyons, Julia Spencer and Micaela Villarreal logged a time of 10 minutes, 11.79 seconds in the race for 14-year-olds, finishing 32.67 seconds behind the gold medal team from Jeuness Track Club of Brooklyn, N.Y. There were 26 teams in the event.
“I really wasn’t expecting that,” Radtke said. “It was kind of surprising.”
Radtke also qualified for the 800-meter run for 13-year-olds, finishing 42nd out of 96 runners. She worked her way through district and regional competition to make the two national events.
“I competed for the 1,500 (meters) at regionals also,” Radtke said. “I missed qualification by three seconds.”
It was being fleet-footed that sparked in Radtke the idea of trying track and field.
“I’d always been a runner and fast in school, I guess,” she said. “I wanted to try it out for real. I work out a lot besides actually going to track practice. Plus, I am on a special diet – healthy food, no junk food and lots of water.”
Radtke’s mother, Angela Radtke-Carter, said her daughter worked diligently through the preliminaries, which required finishing in the top six in the Texas district, and in the top 16 in regionals.
“Kayla was ranked 72nd in the 800 meters at the time,” Angela said. “My husband and I were able to fly down there and put it live on Facebook, and videotape it.”
Angela – also a CN citizen – said Kayla is proud of her Cherokee heritage, and that her daughter’s spirit and motivation were essential to keeping up the travel schedule.
“We really didn’t know what we were getting into at first,” Angela said. “We traveled all over Texas to Houston, Dallas, and back to San Antonio. When it comes to our weekends, a lot of it has been tied up in her track. She is so dedicated. She changed her diet and works out, and it was never anything that we forced her into.”
It is not as if Angela and Kayla are not accustomed to moving around. Angela is an Army veteran who grew up in Oklahoma, but also lived with her daughter in Germany, Arizona and Washington state.
“I was never that into sports as a child, so this has opened a whole different world for me,” Angela said. “Now that we’re settled, it is so nice that my children are able to pursue something like this.”
For now, Radtke is looking forward to starting a new year of track and field.
“I always look forward to track practice,” she said. “I’m sore almost all the time, but I enjoy hanging out with my track friends. They always make practice more fun.”