Richmond Grinders Capture Medal In Junior Olympics Nationals


Richmond Grinders Capture Medal In Junior Olympics Nationals

By Dedan Ji Jaga

“There is no magic arrow for good health. The solution to the health crisis that our youth face is for communities to embrace a culture of fitness and proper diet. We must love our children enough to instill in them the discipline to exercise regularly and to eat right.”

— Dr. Tommie Smith, Gold Medalist, 1968 Mexico City Olympics

The Richmond Grinders won a medal at the junior Olympics nationals in Virginia this year. And as their coach, I can tell you that what they accomplished is only the beginning. Their success is part of a bigger movement in Richmond and across the country, and its inspiration dates all the way back to the 1968 Olympics.

Five years ago, Mark Alexander of the organization 100 Black Men of America, Inc., which works to improve the quality of life within African-American communities, asked me to create a health and fitness program for Richmond. The idea was to get our community involved in the Youth Movement, a youth development program focused on children’s health.

Youth Movement was started in response to the high numbers of African American children suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other health problems. Its mission
is to improve the overall health and well-being of young people through physical fitness training, wholesome food choices, character development, and mentoring.

We introduced aspiring young athletes to educational nutrition clinics, aerobic and endurance assessments, track and field skills, and participation in local, regional and national track meets, like the Annual Tommie Smith Youth Track Meet, which is a celebration and recruiting tool for the Youth Movement program. Young athletes also got to interact with Olympic greats like Tommie Smith, Eddie Hart and Mike Powell.

Gold medalist Tommie Smith won his medal in 1968, the same year that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It was the courage of Smith and John Carlos — with their iconic, defiant fists raised to the heavens — that helped inspire people from their grief. It’s the main reason why Smith tops my hero list, and it’s inspiring to work with him to create a more promising future for our children.

As Alexander of 100 Black Men of America has said, “Our children’s success is predicated on a wholesome lifestyle. When we nurture our children, we strengthen our community.”

It is from these core principles that the Richmond Grinders evolved to become a respected presence in the ever-expanding track and field community.

With Smith as our “patron saint,” the Richmond Grinders proudly run under the banner of the Tommie Smith Youth Movement, enjoying support that includes training clinics, track shoes, uniforms and equipment. Smith also hosts an annual series of track meets in Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Louisville, Kentucky, along with our annual showcase meet at U.C. Berkeley.

Currently, the Grinders count 15 athletes on its roster. Thanks to a collaboration with Tara Hills Elementary School — the only elementary school with a full track and field program in the school district last year — we expect another 25 to 35 students to join our program. The club accepts participants as young as 4 and as old as 17.

This year, five of our athletes qualified for the Amateur Athletic Union’s national “Junior Olympics” track and field competition at Norfolk State University in Virginia. Four traveled to compete, including my daughters Amadi, 9, and Naja, 11, along with 9-year-old Amaya Harris and 12-year-old Marcell Anderson.

During our coast-to-coast, 22-day odyssey to Virginia and back, we crossed 20 states, visited 41 cities and drove more than 6,800 miles. We sweated down the simmering highways of California, through arid flats of eastern Nevada and the salt lakes of Utah, and marveled at the painted rock facades of Arizona and the vastness of Texas before admiring the greenery of West Virginia, the plains of Kansas and the mountainous ranges of Wyoming.

DSC_9350The redeeming moment of the competition came when Naja, struggling with an ankle injury, medaled in fourth place of the Turbo Javelin event, besting more than 60 other competitors who represented some of the best young athletes in the nation.

“We saw and learned so much, but I also learned that I have a lot of work to do in order to compete on a national level,” Marcell told me.

Working with kids remains a constant reward with recurring dividends, and experiencing these moments together with my daughters makes it priceless. I hope my daughters see what I am doing and someday continue the cycle, giving back beyond the extent they have received.

Khalid’s Corner: Returning to the Field


by Khalid Elahi

I made my move ya’ll. After a decade in retirement I’m back on that Richmond Steeler football field and I haven’t missed a beat. I left a champion and I’m back to empower youth to reach the zenith of their potential.

Our objective first and foremost is to keep these young men alive and free from incarceration. We will do this by educating them on the disease of violence. Secondly we will ensure they have passing grades in school—our goal is a 3.0 or better. We are a college prep youth football team. We also have major resources to send them to college.

Over the last month these young men have been grinding real hard out there. I would like you to plan on supporting Steelers football this year. It’s a new energy and new spirit out there. Don’t miss it!

We are representing the entire city and I personally promise it’s a new day. We are aiming to be California National Champions.

Richmond Steeler for life!

For Female Athletes, Double Standards Start at an Early Age

BY , VoiceWaces

Aug 20, 2014; South Williamsport, PA, USA; Mid-Atlantic Region pitcher Mo'ne Davis (3) throws a pitch in the first inning against the West Region at Lamade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports - RTR435SVWhen 13-year-old female baseball player Mo’ne Davis was publicly slut-shamed on Twitter earlier this year, thousands rallied to her defense. The incident highlighted the longstanding tradition in this country of hyper-sexualizing female athletes.

Female athletes are judged by their appearance far more than male athletes and are often subjected to public scrutiny based on their looks or “sexual behavior.”

For instance, Mokgadi Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic distance runner and world champion, had to undergo sex testing because she didn’t conform to the stereotypical feminine image. She eventually fought back and won her case, arguing on the basis of protecting her medical privacy. She nevertheless had to wait a year before being able to compete again as a woman.

A recent cover of Sports Illustrated featured University of Kentucky basketball player Karl-Anthony Towns shooting a lay-up. The picture highlighted his strength and agility. Compare that to lists like “The Top 50 Hottest Female Athletes Of All Time” or “The Sexiest Female Athletes of 2014.”

Karen Marin during a badminton game with her co-ed team at Cabrillo High.

When these strong and successful women aren’t in bikinis, their dating and personal lives become main topics. WNBA player Candace Parker’s 2009 pregnancy cover on ESPN magazine is a prime example. Instead of including her skills on the court, the cover shows her in a white dress while pregnant.

That kind of double standard isn’t limited to professional athletes but starts as early as high school.

When I played girls’ tennis, I felt uncomfortable because our uniform consisted of a short skirt. I never understood why I had to wear a skirt when the boys’ team wore long shorts. I always wore shorts to games, even though my coach would reprimand me for not wearing the appropriate uniform.

But when I played in co-ed badminton, my coach let us choose our uniforms. I could wear long shorts or shorter ones based on how comfortable they were to me. My teammates didn’t care that I was wearing shorts that were too long or that I wasn’t wearing a skirt. We were all treated equally.

Having played a co-ed sport, I never felt put down because I was a girl. At the end of the day, I want to be seen for my strength on the court, not how I look on or off of it.

I’m not sure what will eradicate sexism, especially in sports, but I do believe the reason Davis was so graceful with her response to Twitter-shaming was due somewhat to playing on a co-ed team. She knows her worth and didn’t need to bring anyone down to make herself look better. She let her strength in the sport do all the talking.

VoiceWaves asked several high school athletes in Long Beach to share their thoughts on the hyper-sexualization of female athletes:

Bottreypich ChapBottreypich Chap, 17: I played two sports in high school: co-ed badminton and all-girls tennis. In badminton, the boys and the girls wore the same t-shirts and bottoms were based on student preference. In tennis, we were required to wear a tank top and athletic skirt, which was quite different from the boy’s tennis teams. I didn’t comfortable in my tennis uniform. The fact that I had to prance around in a micro skirt made me constantly conscious of the skin on display, which didn’t exactly help my confidence during matches. “Pull down your skirt more,” or “your bra strap is showing” were constantly thrown around. I felt as if I had to up my attitude level a bit, to show people that I may be wearing this “girly” uniform, but I wasn’t someone to be toyed with, and that being “girly” wasn’t a bad thing. This “girly girl” could still serve a mean smash. In badminton I didn’t feel anyone’s stares; it was just me, the birdy, and my opponent. I was in it to win it, and I never felt self-conscious. There wasn’t an urge to prove anything to anyone, other than myself.


Sulma SolisSulma Solis, 17: If people care too much about how we female athletes look then it takes away the whole meaning of female athlete. People should expect us to get dirty and to look sporty instead of having the idea that just because we’re females we have to be dolled up as if we were going to a party instead of a game. Being a female athlete can add a bit of pressure because people, including your coaches, expect more of you because they want you to prove people wrong.



Sarah RodriguezSarah Rodriguez, 17: For me the double standard is definitely an added pressure … to play harder. The criticism can be difficult emotionally. Nevertheless it empowers me to keep doing the sport I love.





Nikki GawaranNikki Gawaran, 18: A girl should be fine with dressing with whatever’s comfortable for them. If men are able to sag and show their buttocks on a normal day, then girls can wear short shorts like spandex that are comfortable and easier to play with. Wearing spandex makes it really comfortable and easy for female athletes to be active. I think it’s all about the player and what they feel is the most comfortable for them.”

– See more at:

Down a Player: How a High School Coach and Basketball Team is Carrying on in the Wake of a Homicide

News Feature, Chanelle Ignant


At a Friday night basketball game in late November, Richmond High School’s boys basketball coach, Robert Collins, paced the sidelines, yelling instructions to his team.

With less than 30 seconds left, and only a two-point lead over the Mount Diablo Devils, Collins had one command for his team.

“Don’t foul the shooter! Don’t foul the shooter,” he said, his booming voice carrying throughout the gym.

The Devils tied the game at 73 with 12 seconds to go.

The pressure was on for the Oilers. With the ball in play, they managed to make it across half court, but fumbled the ball near their baseline.

With five seconds left, senior Sahr Kelly recovered the ball and took a difficult shot from underneath the basket.

The buzzer sounded. Kelly’s shot went in, and the Oilers were victorious.

As the team rushed from the bench, surrounding Kelly in celebration, they left behind a jersey laid out on one of the chairs. It was emblazoned with the number 4—a memorial to the team’s fallen player, Rodney Frazier Jr., who was killed out front of his North Richmond home in November.

Collins, now sobbing, walked through the post-game ritual of handshakes and saying “good game” to the other team.

His love of the game, of his players and of Richmond’s program was evident. The sense of loss for a player absent that Friday night was palpable.

“This game was special,” he said on the way to the bus. “That was so special.”

In the wake of the fatal shooting of Frazier, the 16-year-old junior guard for the Oilers who was gunned down on November 7, Collins said he and the team have been riding an emotional roller coaster.

“We’re ready for some normalcy again,” said the veteran coach of 18 years.

IMG_9985Collins gained media attention in recent weeks after co-organizing a rally for Frazier at Richmond City Hall where hundreds of players, community members and leaders gathered to honor Frazier and call for change.

His passion, often witnessed on the sideline at games, turns to indignation whenever he speaks of what happened to Frazier.

“Why did they have to take someone out who was just on the brink of becoming someone unbelievably special in life?” Collins asked. “Why did that have to happen? I’m never going to get the answer,” he said. “No one is.”

Collins began coaching at Richmond High in 2002, replacing the famed Coach Ken Carter. He left in 2006 to coach at Amador Valley High, but resigned after two years when parents complained about his intense coaching style.

He returned to Richmond as a physical education teacher in 2008 and became coach once more, fulfilling his wish to “be a part of kids lives.”

“I’m older and a lot wiser and a part of a school community now, which is what I always wanted to be,” Collins said.

Collins admits that the challenges are great for Richmond High students.

“It’s pretty heavy for these young people that see a lot of rocky stuff on a day to day occurrence,” he said. “I’m sensitive to it, but I will never understand it.”

He said basketball keeps the players going because it gives them a physical outlet for their pain and a common goal to work toward.

Despite the recent tragedy, he considers Richmond High his saving grace.

“I was never really part of a school community, until I got to Richmond,” he said.

IMG_9998And that community relies on him now. On Friday night, as his voice carried throughout the gym, the intensity that he says forced him out of a suburban school is what the Richmond players look up to.

“He gives these kids and this school and this program everything he has,” said Kellis Love, the Richmond junior varsity boy basketball coach. “He’s one of a kind.”

So far, Collins said, the team is playing “with the idea that we wish Rodney was here doing it with us.”

“It is what it is,” Collins said. “We’re going to have to get through it and go forward.”

Now on a two-game winning streak, the Oilers are gaining momentum. With Collins’ leadership from the sidelines, and Frazier’s memory pushing them to succeed, the boys of Richmond High will keep playing one game at a time.


Warriors Give Nystrom Community a New Place to Play

Story and Photos by Chanelle Ignant

Lenora Walker grew up playing basketball near Martin Luther King Park in Richmond. But when the Martin Luther King Community Center closed a few years ago, the park’s run down outdoor courts became her only option.

“All we had left were the courts here that had cracks [and] the backboards were small and old,” Walker recalled. “We didn’t have nowhere else to go around here that’s not in someone else’s neighborhood.”

On Oct. 20, Walker and over a hundred other community members attended the unveiling of two radically different courts in their backyard.

IMG_9997The Mitch Richmond Basketball Courts, named for the Basketball Hall of famer—and former Golden State Warriors great—Mitch Richmond, debuted with the help of the Warriors Foundation, Good Tidings Foundation, the California Endowment and Healthy Richmond.

Featuring four new NBA plexiglass hoop systems and a 14,000 square foot all-weather acrylic playing surface, the renovations came about through the work of the Nystrom United Revitalization Effort (NURVE), an initiative launched in 2002 to address the needs of the Nystrom neighborhood. The renovated basketball courts completed the effort to revitalize MLK Park. The courts are next to the Oakland Raiders themed football field, completed in 2011, and the Oakland A’s baseball field—opened earlier this year.

“What the Warriors did here was just phenomenal,” Jim Becker of Richmond Community Foundation said.

After an Oakland Raiders football field’s renovation and an Oakland A’s baseball field done earlier this year, Becker reached out to Jose Gordon, Executive Director of the Warriors Foundation with the idea of involving the Warriors in the rebuild of the outdoor basketball court. Gordon loved the idea.

According to Becker it’s the only instance in the country where all three major sports teams have helped build a neighborhood park.

“Playing sports was my everything,” said Mitch Richmond during the unveiling ceremony. On the court is where he said he learned the value of teamwork and dedication.

Following the ceremony the Warriors Foundation led a basketball clinic with students between the ages of 10 and 12 from Richmond College Preparatory and the Police Activities League.

Christina Baronian, a sixth grade teacher at Richmond College Prep, said that with the limited space at her school the new court offers a place for her students to go after school.

“This park was always a dangerous park to go,” Baronian said. “A lot of their parents wouldn’t let them come here because it was so dangerous. And now that they’ve fixed up this court and the other field my students are going to be able to come here now, which they’re really excited about.”

Lynette Walker, who lives nearby came to the event and said she hopes the refurbished courts will attract more players.

“For years we would come out here and play and no one would be out here,” she said. “Now that they fixed it up I really think that a lot of people will be encouraged to come back and play.”

NURVE team member Janie Holland said the park involved more than just outsiders.

“We would like for the community to take ownership of this,” Holland said. “We want them to feel like this is ours. We all did this together.”

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Local Boxing Coach Training Champions in Richmond

News Report + Photos, Sukey Lewis

IMG_1980“You better go Richmond on him!”

Coach John Island spoke forcefully into his fighter’s ear as they huddled in the red corner of the boxing ring. Jonny Perez was in the middle of his third and final fight at the 2014 Ringside World Championship in Kansas City, Missouri. He was up against a tough opponent from Puerto Rico, fighting for his family, his community and the title.

It was also his birthday. By the time it was all said and done, Perez was 21-years-old — and a welterweight world champion.

“What he said in that corner, what he put in my head, is really what made me win,” Perez later said.

Coach Island has known Perez since he was an angry 15-year-old kid, getting into schoolyard fights at Richmond High, stealing and getting arrested. But Perez turned his life around, and now works as a community organizer with the Freedom Fighters, inspiring other young people to advocate for their rights and participate in their own rescue.

Island himself is no stranger to adversity. He struggled throughout his childhood in Richmond—living in a foster home for a time, and never having enough money. He began boxing at the age of 10, and credits the sport for saving him.

“I became a fighter in life,” Island said.

He would need that tenacious spirit for more than just boxing. After going professional, Island’s career came to a grinding halt after only four fights. The opponent this time wasn’t another fighter, but a cancer diagnosis: Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which affected his neck and shoulder.

Island spent two years undergoing radiation, surgery and treatment.

“It breaks you down,” he said. “I still feel the side effects.”

IMG_1942An unintended result of his own stalled boxing career was that Island began to teach others. He had never thought about teaching before, describing himself in those days as “selfish” with his knowledge. Cancer, it seems, brought the important things in his life sharply into focus. He needed to find a way to keep doing what he loved, and pass on the important lessons life had taught him.

“I found a way to use what I know to change lives,” he said.

Now 41, Island runs the Richmond Police Activities League boxing program for at-risk youth. For the past seven years, Island has been mentoring the city’s youth, helping them stay fit, and teaching them how to throw a punch.

The program has been very successful. Leon Brown, Island’s nephew and one of his protégés, is ranked number three in the world. And Perez wasn’t the only RPAL boxer to come away with a belt in Kansas City earlier this month.

DeVonnie Ray Davidson, 20, won the lightweight division, ultimately triumphing over a tough third-round fighter.

“Dude was trying to knock my head off,” Davidson said laughing. “I just keep my hands up and stay calm and work off the jab.”

He credits Perez for helping him prepare for the fight. Sparring together at the RPAL gym downtown, Davidson said he’s learned how to deal with pressure and keep his cool.

Tall and soft-spoken, Davidson described the physical ordeal fighters go through—especially those trying to “make weight.” After winning his second fight, the boxer had to go for a run to ensure he would qualify as a lightweight—between 115 and 123 pounds.

Davidson has been training with Island for more than three years, and said he would never have gotten this far without Island’s coaching and mentoring.

“Vonnie came to me, not actually sure where he fit in,” Island said. “I taught him from the bottom up — he didn’t know anything about boxing. From there it changed his life, so much.”

Island’s team also included Officer Savannah Stewart of the Richmond Police Department and Sam Mendoza, though the fighters were knocked out in the first and second rounds, respectively.

“I took those ones because they are some of the hardest working [fighters] that I have here. And I really felt like they deserved (it)… To be able to compete locally is one thing but to be able to compete with athlete(s) from all over the world, that says something.”

Island can see the positive impact the boxing program has on his students’ lives. “Everybody is a graduate of high-school, everybody’s going to college, or they’re working. It’s always positive — no drugs, no alcohol.”

IMG_1977Bringing home two championship belts to Richmond, Island feels his boxing program is part of the change his city needs. He said he sees kids without hope, without anything to do, and without strong role models to show them a positive path.

As Perez tells the story of his coach motivating him with the words, “go Richmond on them,” Island interrupts to explain.

“I’m trying to tell him to be himself. He had it in him all along. I’m saying, remember the tough days from Richmond High when he was up to no good,” Island said. “You thought you was out there fighting and doing something. Now use it for a reason — that’s why I remind you where you come from: Richmond. Never forget.”

“Never forget,” Perez echoed.


Richmond Police Activities League is holding a boxing event at 2200 MacDonald Ave. on Saturday, August 16, to raise money for the team. Their goal is to raise enough funds to participate in the National Police Activities League Championships in Oxnard, in late September.

To get more information on coach Island’s boxing program or to donate to the team, contact him by email at

Brazilians in Richmond React to World Cup Defeat

Photo Essay, David Meza

Last week, Tempero Goiano Brazilian Restaurant in Richmond was full of people decked out in yellow and green—their hopes high for the Brazilian soccer team in its game against Germany. It would end up being a historic match.

Tempero Goiano was one of many local businesses that joined in the World Cup experience by showing games and hosting events. Angelica Lima, owner of the family run restaurant said that since the World Cup started business had picked up for the games, especially if Brazil was playing.

Leading up to the World Cup, and throughout the event, tensions in the host country of Brazil ran high as many in the country protested against the extravagance and cost of hosting the World Cup in a country with a deep economic divide. On this day, however, with Brazil taking on Germany in the hopes of advancing, cheers for the home team drowned out much of the controversy around the Cup—at least in Tempero Goiano.

Then the unthinkable happened. Within the first half hour of the game, Germany scored five goals against Brazil, stunning fans. At Tempero Goiano, staff shut off the game after the first half as people around the restaurant cried. But, they soon wiped away the tears and turned the game back on—only to watch Germany score a couple of more goals.

“That day we had a lot of people; everyone was happy and excited,” Lima said. “But when Germany scored the third goal we knew it was over. People were disappointed and angry.”

“They couldn’t watch,” she added, “and ended up leaving.”

After the historic semifinal, Germany went on to become the 2014 World Cup champion, defeating Argentina in the final.

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El Cerrito High School Track Star Hurdles Her Way Through Life

by Sukey Lewis

Robinson2Kaylah Robinson jumps up and down rolling her head from side to side. Her deep brown eyes focus on the horizon—past the yards of track and two hurdles in front of her. Kaylah’s arms hang taut at her sides, fingers splayed apart. Every muscle in her long legs seems to vibrate.


She drops to her hands and knees, pressing her blue and red running shoes into the starting blocks.


She shifts into racing position. Head down, butt slightly raised, hands in the red dirt.


The slap of two wooden bricks sets her in motion: potential energy converting to kinetic.

Kaylah slips over the first hurdle like water over a stone. Her stride barely changes. But, a moment later, “Bam!” Her toe hits the second hurdle. She stumbles and slows, wheeling around with an impatient smile.

At 14, Kaylah is already used to perfection.

The local track star says it started in pre-school. She took part in a relay race, but fell halfway to the handoff point. She figured the race was over after the tumble, but kept running anyway. She smoked the competition.

David Robinson, Kaylah’s father, biggest fan, and onetime coach, says track has taught Kaylah a lot about life. “You can’t control what goes on around you in life, and the important thing is to focus on what you can control,” he says. “She can’t control what person in lane one does; she can only control what she does in her lane.”

At eight, Kaylah started competing and training with the Richmond Half Steppers. She ran away with her first gold medal that same year at the sub-bantam (eight and under) track championship for Northern California.

“It felt really, really good,” she says.

Today’s practice, at Laney College in Oakland, is a bit more relaxed than usual; the big race was last week. Kaylah participated in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State Track and Field Championship, and did well, but missed the opportunity to compete in the state final by an eighth of a second. After four weeks of eliminations, only the top nine contestants move on to the final; Kaylah was number 10.

Though she wishes she’d made the final, she says she didn’t leave completely disappointed. “It felt really good to be competing with the best of the best.”

And that isn’t a hollow prize. It is rare for someone so young to qualify for the State meet. In Kaylah’s events—the 100-meter dash and the 100-meter hurdles—only two and three other female freshman in the entire state (respectively) qualified to compete.

Kaylah knows she’s talented, but she isn’t smug. Between training and watching what she eats, track takes a lot of work. Sometimes, especially after a difficult day, she wishes she could just hang out and be a regular teenager, but she says she has to respect her gift.

Her father says she had a tough year when she about 11-years-old. “She knew at that point she couldn’t just walk out of bed in the morning and beat people anymore.” That difficulty, he said, helped her develop a strong work ethic. “I really saw her mature through that.”

Robinson1“I’m really good,” Kaylah acknowledges. “Not a lot of people get the talent. So I don’t throw it away.” Then she smiles. “And if I keep up with it, I could go to college for free.”

Despite her youth, education is clearly important to Kaylah. As a freshman at El Cerrito High, she says she applies the same competitive drive to her schoolwork as she does to track.

“For the first time I have a 4.0,” she says proudly. “I’ve always had good grades, and I push myself even if I have to do extra credit.”

Kaylah clearly has innate athletic ability. Tall and lean—her body is all long lines, and neat hinges. Though she’s tried other sports, from basketball to volleyball, Kaylah keeps coming back to running because she knows it’s where she can excel. “Why be just an average player on the team?” she asks.

While sprinting came naturally to Kaylah hurdling is new and difficult.

“We have a love-hate relationship,” she says of the hurdles. She begins by saying her biggest challenge has been learning how to hurdle, but then revises it. “Actually, my biggest challenge is learning how to be patient with my hurdling.”

This is still her first year with the sport, and Kaylah has to remind herself that it takes time, a lot of time to get it down; even Olympians aren’t perfect, she says. So, for now, she’ll take the falls and try to learn patience.

And, there are other skills that are important for track.

“It’s not just running.” Kaylah says, shaking her head. “People think we just run around in circles.” A runner has to have technique, strength and a deep knowledge of her own anatomy, she explains. Not to mention mental toughness.

At the North Coast Section Berkeley Meet of Champions in May, Kaylah showed up to compete, but her body wasn’t cooperating.

“I had a horrible stomachache,” she says. “I told myself, at the end of the day the other girls don’t care that you have a stomachache. Nobody in the stands cares if your stomach hurts. The track, the timer—nobody cares if your stomach is hurting.”

It came down to willpower.

“I told myself it doesn’t hurt.” Kaylah placed second in the 100-meter hurdles and third in the 100-meter dash that day.

Robinson3Kaylah’s dream is to be the first person to win both the 100-meter hurdles and the 100-meter dash at the CIF State Track and Field Championship.

Her next big race is the Golden West Invitational at the end of June. Aside from training and racing, Kaylah says she wants to let loose and have some fun with her family over summer “break.”

“I’m so jammed up during the school year,” she says. “Summer is time to spend with my family.”Por Sukey Lewis

Kaylah Robinson salta rodando su cabeza de lado a lado. Sus profundos ojos cafés se centran en el horizonte más allá de las yardas de la pista y dos vallas en frente de ella. Los brazos de Kaylah cuelgan firmemente a sus costados, con los dedos extendidos. Todos los músculos de sus piernas largas parecen vibrar.

“En sus marcas”.

Ella se deja caer sobre sus manos y rodillas, presionando sus zapatos de correr azules y rojos en el taco de salida.


Ella se pone en la posición de carreras. La cabeza hacia abajo, ligeramente elevada, las manos en la tierra roja.


La bofetada de dos ladrillos de madera la pone en movimiento: la energía potencial convertida a cinética.

Kaylah se desliza sobre el primer obstáculo como agua sobre una piedra. Su zancada apenas cambia. Pero, un momento después, “!Bam!” Su dedo del pie golpea la segunda valla. Tropieza y va más despacio, devolviéndose con una sonrisa impaciente.

A los 14, Kaylah ya esta acostumbrada a la perfección.

La estrella del atletismo local, dice que comenzó en la escuela preescolar. Ella participó en una carrera de relevos, pero cayó a mitad del camino del punto de transferencia. Pensó que la carrera había terminado después de la caída, pero siguió corriendo de todos modos. Dejó atrás a la competencia.

David Robinson, el padre de Kaylah, y su mayor fan, y una vez entrenador, dice que la pista le ha enseñado a Kaylah mucho sobre la vida. “No puedes controlar lo que ocurre a tu alrededor en la vida, y lo importante es centrarte en lo que puedes controlar”, dice. “Ella no puede controlar lo que la persona en un carril hace; ella sólo puede controlar lo que hace ella en su carril”.

A los ocho, Kaylah empezó a competir y entrenar con los Richmond Half Steppers. Ella recibió su primera medalla de oro ese mismo año en el sub-bantam (ocho años o menos) campeonato de pista para el norte de California.

“Se sintió muy, muy bien”, dice ella.

La sesión de hoy, en Laney College en Oakland, es un poco más relajado de lo habitual; la gran carrera fue la semana pasada. Kaylah participó en el Campeonato de Pista y Campo del Estado de la Federación Interescolar de California (CIF), y le fue bien, pero perdió la oportunidad de competir en la final del estado por un octavo de segundo. Después de cuatro semanas de eliminaciones, sólo los mejores nueve concursantes pasan a la final; Kaylah era la número 10.

Aunque ella desea que hubiera llegado a el final, ella dice que no se fue completamente decepcionada. “Me sentí realmente bien estar compitiendo con lo mejor de lo mejor”.

Y eso no es un premio hueco. Es raro que alguien tan joven clasifique al encuentro estatal. En los eventos de Kaylah – la carrera de 100 metros y los 100 metros con vallas sólo dos y otras tres mujeres estudiantes de primer año en todo el estado (respectivamente) clasificaron para competir.

Kaylah sabe que tiene talento, pero ella no es presumida. Entre el entrenamiento y la observación de lo que come, la pista lleva mucho trabajo. A veces, especialmente después de un día difícil, ella desea que pudiera pasar el tiempo y ser un adolescente normal, pero ella dice que tiene que respetar su regalo.

Su padre dice que tuvo un año difícil cuando ella tenía 11 años. “Ella sabía en ese momento que ella ya no podía salir de la cama por la mañana y ganarle a la gente”. Esa dificultad, dijo, le ayudó a desarrollar una fuerte ética de trabajo. “Realmente la vi madurar a través de eso”.

“Soy muy buena”, reconoce Kaylah. “No mucha gente consigue el talento. Así que no lo tiro a la basura”. Entonces ella sonríe. “Y si sigo con esto, podría ir a la universidad de forma gratuita”.

A pesar de su juventud, la educación es claramente importante para Kaylah. Como estudiante de primer año en la secundaria El Cerrito, ella dice que aplica el mismo impulso competitivo para su trabajo escolar como lo hace con la pista.

“Por primera vez tengo un 4,0”, dice con orgullo. “Siempre he tenido buenas notas, y me esfuerzo incluso si tengo que hacer crédito adicional”.

Kaylah claramente tiene la capacidad atlética innata. Alta y delgada – su cuerpo es todo líneas largas, y articulaciones. A pesar de que ha intentado otros deportes, baloncesto a voleibol, Kaylah sigue volviendo a correr porque ella sabe que es donde ella puede sobresalir. “¿Por qué ser sólo un jugador regular en el equipo?” Ella pregunta.

Mientras hacer un sprint fue algo natural para Kaylah, saltar las vallas es nuevo y difícil.

“Tenemos una relación de amor-odio”, dice de las vallas. Ella comienza diciendo que su mayor reto ha sido aprender cómo saltar la valla, pero luego lo revisa. “En realidad, mi mayor reto es aprender a ser paciente con mi forma de saltar las vallas”.

Este sigue siendo su primer año con el deporte, y Kaylah tiene que recordarse a sí misma que se necesita tiempo, mucho tiempo para aprenderlo; incluso los olímpicos no son perfectos, dice ella. Así que, por ahora, ella tomará las caídas y tratará de aprender a tener paciencia.

Y, hay otras habilidades que son importantes para la pista.

“No es sólo correr”. Kaylah dice, sacudiendo la cabeza. “La gente piensa que sólo corremos en círculos”. Un corredor tiene que tener técnica, fuerza y un profundo conocimiento de su propia anatomía, explica. Por no hablar de la fortaleza mental.

En el Encuentro de Campeones de la Sección Berkeley de la Costa Norte en mayo, Kaylah llegó para competir, pero su cuerpo no estaba cooperando.

“Yo tenía un dolor de estómago horrible”, dice ella. “Me dije a mí misma, al final del día a las otras chicas no les importa que tienes un dolor de estómago. A nadie en las gradas le importa si te duele el estómago. La pista, el temporizador-a nadie le importa si tu estómago te está doliendo”.

Se redujo a la fuerza de voluntad.

“Me dije a mí misma que no me dolía”. Kaylah se colocó en segundo lugar en los 100 metros con vallas y tercera en la carrera de 100 metros ese día.

El sueño de Kaylah es ser la primera persona en ganar tanto los 100 metros con vallas y la carrera de 100 metros en el Campeonato Estatal de Atletismo de CIF.

Su siguiente gran carrera es el Oeste Dorado por Invitación a finales de junio. Aparte del entrenamiento y las carreras, Kaylah dice que quiere relajarse y pasar un buen rato con su familia durante el “descanso” de verano.

“Estoy tan ocupada durante el año escolar”, dice ella. “El verano es tiempo para estar con mi familia”.

Basketball Camp Offers Healthy Fun for Richmond Kids

Photo Essay, Jennifer Baires

Bending slightly at the knees, Keyahlah Bean lifts a basketball over head and leans back before releasing the ball into an arc that ends with a trip around the rim of the basket, before falling through the net with a swish. “Yes!” the ecstatic eight-year-old yells, jumping up, hands raised above her head in victory.

It’s Keyahlah’s first time playing the game. She says her family signed her up for the free basketball clinic, sponsored by the health food company Nutiva and the E.M. Downer Family YMCA, just last week, and she has already made up her mind to return. “I am coming back next year,” she says while sitting on a bench watching the older kids play.

Keyahlah was one of 45 kids who showed up at the second annual Richmond Youth Basketball Camp. The event ran all day, and with the help of volunteers from Nutiva and players from the Pinole Valley High School girls’ basketball team, the kids worked on dribbling, shooting and defending.

The gymnasium at the YMCA on South 20th Street was split into different sections, with the younger, less experienced ballers taking up the back half of the gym and the advanced players scrimmaging in the front. Shouts, squeals and laughter rang out as the kids, ranging in age from six to 12, ran around for hours, alternately working together and competing against one another.

“I just started playing basketball, but…” nine-year old Marcus Griffin said as he took a break between drills to catch his breath. Before Marcus could finish his thought an errant ball bounced by and he was off, chasing it down and heading towards the basket.

The camp, a spokeswoman for Nutiva said, is part of the company’s mission to support healthy communities through its nonprofit, Nutiva Nourish Foundation, and a way to be more involved in the Richmond community now that its corporate offices and warehouse are up and running in the city.

For the kids, it was a summer day full of feats and failures in basketball, and new friendships formed on the court—at least for a day.

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Exploring the Science of Skateboarding

Story • Chanelle Ignant | Photos • David Meza

The skate park at Richmond’s Nicholl Park became a physics classroom on a Wednesday in March, when an event called “The Science of Skateboard Physics” introduced local teens and young adults to the physics principles guiding the way they ride.

Hosted by the Teen Services Branch of the Richmond Public Library and the Richmond Recreation Department, the program attracted skaters of various ages and levels of experience.

Angela Cox, the event’s organizer and the Richmond Library’s teen librarian, says she hoped to help young skateboarders see the connection between science and their sport.

“A lot of times people think that physics is a course that is abstract, that has absolutely nothing to do with their lives,” she says. “But a lot of [the youth] are skateboarders and really want to learn how to perfect their techniques and do more difficult kinds of tricks.”

“If they know the principles of what allows them to balance, what allows them to do a certain spin or a certain move, then that’s physics. And there’s a connection between science and what they love to do,” she says.

While Cox handed out sports drinks and energy bars, over 50 attendees checked out the event’s main attraction: the Exploratorium’s mobile skate exhibit, on loan from the San Francisco-based museum. Inside, participants found their center of gravity while balancing on mock skateboards, and tested the speed and durability of skateboard wheels of varying widths.

Rider safety was also highlighted. Local skate instructor Ali Karayel led demonstrations on how to fall properly while riding and how to avoid major injuries.

Josue Hernandez, 22, says the event’s turnout is evidence of a growing skate culture in Richmond. “I would love to see this more often,” he said.

“I think it’s cool for the kids to know that people care about what they’re interested in,” said Jenea Brisby, who attended the event with her son.

Brisby had seen the mobile skate exhibit in San Francisco and was glad to see it brought to Richmond’s youth. “We shouldn’t have to go to San Francisco to enjoy things like this,” she said.

Major Jones, 22, has been skating for thirteen years and says he has considered the science behind the sport before, but was interested in learning more from the exhibit and hopes that events like this will spread awareness of the skate community in Richmond.

“I think skateboarders would make great scientists,” he said.

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