By Angie Ledbetter
Eighteen-year-old Montez Griffin, son of Otis and Betty Griffin, had a very busy summer traveling and competing in track. He topped off his summer by competing at the AAU Junior Olympic Games XLIII in Des Moines Iowa.
The senior at South Panola has been running track since eight grade. He loves the sport because he loves to run.
“I think I have a future in it and it’s fun for me,” said Griffin. “I love to watch it on television to see how fast they run. I’m more of a 400 runner but I do run a 200 and 800.”
Griffin started his summer adventure after his cousin saw his times on the internet from running school track. He asked Griffin if he’d like to come to Texas and run for them. His parents allowed him to go and he said it was experience of a lifetime.
He gave up a lot all summer plus he was away from his family.
“It was really kind of hard at first but I was still down there with family. I got to meet new people and got a new understanding of things. I still missed my family back home.”
Griffin said that his family is very proud of him. Besides his parents, he has two older brothers, Malikia and Esto.
“My older brothers are proud of me for accomplishing what they didn’t. My parents love the fact that I’m running track. They know it’s a great experience and see that I’m good at it.”
“My son has made me very proud,” said Otis Griffin. “He worked hard all summer and did good.”
He traveled to Houston to stay with his brother, Esto, for a week before going to Austin where the track club is based. While in Austin he stayed with his cousin. After joining the club, he returned to Houston to attend a track camp at the University of Houston for a week in June.
“It was a great experience. The coaches really liked me and they sent me a recruiting package. I’m really looking forward to hearing from them.”
Griffin then returned to Austin to rejoin the track club. His team consisted of three guys from Texas and him. A couple weeks later, they had the qualifying meet for the Amateur Athletes Union.
The team competed in the Games of Texas at Alamo Stadium in San Antonio in late July. They won a silver medal in the 400 meter dash and in the 4×400 meter relay.
According to Griffin, the best runners from Texas were competing.
In the Amateur Athletes Union Regional Championship, Griffin and his team won a gold in the 4×400 meter relay with a speed of 4:20 and a silver in the 400 meter dash with a :48.7. They qualified to continue on to the Junior Olympics. The top four teams qualified.
People in Texas were a little curious about him.
“When I first got there, they’d ask who is that guy and then they started calling me Mississippi Silk. We bonded after that. I still talk to them because we’re friends. I hated to leave them but it was time for me to come back home.”
Griffin and his team qualified for Junior Olympics that were held August 1st -8th in Des Moines Iowa. There were about 20,000 people there for the competition. They qualified in the 400 and the 4×4. “I got sick in my heat in the 400 but qualified 13th overall. We ran a 48.8 in the 400 and a 4.17 in the 4×4. We got faster as the competition went on. Even though I didn’t reach my goal of breaking my personal record which was a 48.5 this summer, I still believe I can break a 47 when it comes time for school track. We didn’t quite make the finals but it was still a great experience for me to run against other people. It was just amazing just to be there and run against so many great people. So many people run for the USA which is the best for young people to run. Running against them helped make me better plus I have that experience now. I thank God for allowing me to go.”
“We won the 4×4 at regional so going into the Olympics, we were 15th overall. We qualified and got 5th overall. It was amazing to just be there and run against so many great people.”
Griffin sees a future in track and is hoping to attend the University of Houston after graduation. “They have a great track program and I like the coaches. I also love Houston even though the weather was hot and very humid. I plan to major in business management.”
“The weather is very different than here. Every day it reached a 100 or above and it only rained twice all summer.”
How did Griffin adapt to the weather? “I didn’t prepare any different but I had to drink a lot of water to keep myself hydrated.”
“One funny thing is that they saw that I liked to eat a lot of candy so they tried to restrict me from eating it and drinking juice. I’d still tried to sneak around and eat some candy and drink juice. The candy affects your body the way you perform. It was hard at first but I got used to it after awhile. You’ve got to eat right and make sure you drink enough water.”
Griffin recently returned to the football field where he’ll play wide receiver. He had some catching up to do since he missed summer workouts.
“I’m still in the starting rotations but I still have to get better. The players and coaches told me they were glad to have me back. They were glad to see me like I was them.”