By REID TUCKER
Walton County was well-represented at USA Track and Field’s National Junior Olympic Championships, as Gabe Moore, Joe Ledo-Massey and Christian Friis all finished high among the country’s best.
The Junior Olympic Championships, held July 22-28 in Greensboro, N.C., is the last major outdoor track and field meet of the summer before the indoor heptatholon and pentathlon seasons begin in the fall, so the local athletes all wanted to go out strong – and they did. Freeport’s Moore finish fourth overall in the decathlon of the 17- and 18-year-old men’s division, while Ledo-Massey and Friis, both South Walton High School students, finished third and sixth, respectively, in the 15-year-old division. As all three local athletes finished in the top eight, each medaled at the national-level meet.
Moore posted a final score of 6,796 at the Junior Olympics only a week after finishing sixth in the octathlon at the International Association of Athletics Federations’ World Youth Championships, held earlier this month in Donetsk, Ukraine. The senior-to-be, whose qualifying score at Team USA tryouts was the third-highest in the world among 17-year-old athletes, finished second in two of 10 events – the 400-meter dash (49.04 seconds) and the discus (134 feet even) – hot on the heels of the winner, Texas’ Wolf Mahler, for most of the meet. Moore was fourth in the long jump (21-06.25 feet) and high jump (6-00.75), fifth in the 110-meter hurdles (15.26), sixth in the javelin (151-00), seventh in the 100-meter dash (11.37) and eight in the shot put (43-04.25), but a 14th spot finish in the pole vault (12-05.50) and a 17th-place finish in the last event, the 1,500-meter run (5:09.94) cost him points.
Ledo-Massey’s final score of 5,581, a personal best for the 15-year-old athlete, was just 79 points back from division gold medalist, Giovanni Basso, of Chicago. Ledo-Massey came in first in the 1,500 meter-run with a time of 4:56.70 and he had second-place finishes in two throwing events, posting marks of 120-01 in the discus and 153-02 in the javelin. He was third in the long jump (19-03.25), fourth in the shot put (37-10) and pole vault (10-06), sixth in the 400 (54.13) and seventh in the 110 hurdles (16.78), while he finished 13th in the high jump (5-03) and 14th in the 100 (12.38).
Friis was sixth out of the field of 19 athletes in the age group, earning a final score of 5,081 at the best the biggest meet of his young career, working from a high-water mark of fourth place in the 110 hurdles with time of 16.32. He finished in the top seven in all but three events with strong finishes in the throwing events, coming in fifth in the discus (105-10) and the javelin (134-05) and sixth in the shot put (34-09.50), adding a sixth-spot finish in the 100 (12.00) and a seventh-place performance in the 400 (54.49). Friis was eighth in the 1,500 (5:1762), 15th in the high jump (5-01) and 16th in the long jump (16-09.75).