The old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” played out in Missouri City recently when the talented track and field athletes from Marshall High School had to consider declining an invitation to a national competition.
But thanks to the support from their community, the Buffalos are bound for North Carolina.
The Missouri City Police Department was among the groups that helped the track standouts cover a financial shortfall so they can compete in the 2019 New Balance Nationals, scheduled for June 13-16 in Greensboro, N.C.
“For them to have this opportunity, we didn’t want to pass this up. We felt like this is a good chance for the boys to win and be on a national stage,” said Rodney Alix, a track coach at Marshall said. “Being Marshall it’s a little stigma to our school and for the community to step up is something.”
In four of the last five years, Marshall captured the team state championship in Class 5A. After their latest title this year, the Buffalos were invited to participate in the 2019 New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C.
More than 5,000 top athletes from almost every state as well as Canada and other nations are expected for the competition that, according to the event website, attracts the best runners, jumpers, throwers and relay teams.
Alix was excited for the opportunity to have his young athletes gain a national audience, but the team’s booster club was only able to raise $4,000 of the needed $5,000. Alix didn’t want to disappoint his seniors – most of whom will not compete in track once they reach college – so he started talking to his old friend, Lt. Jazton Heard of the Missouri City PD.
Heard also didn’t want the teens to miss out because they couldn’t afford to go, so he started making phone calls to area business and community leaders. He also told Detective Mike Zimmer, the president of the Missouri City Police Officers Association.
The police officers group quickly raised $1,000, and others in the community reached out asking how they could help. In less than two days, $2,000 was raised.
“The police officers association made it so easy on us. They gave us $1,000 right out the gate,” Heard said. “We said, ‘What do we do now? We’ve already talked to businesses.’ ”
The money will be used for travel, food expenses and lodging. The athletes and three coaches will fly into Raleigh, N.C., and drive to Greensboro.
“This is the first time in the nationals,” Alix said. “A lot of them were on football scholar-ships. We have one kid going to the national meet and then immediately reporting to college. He’s going to (the University of Tulsa).”
The athletes are Devon Achane, Dalevon Campbell, Malik Hornsby, Korey King, Bryson Stubblefield, Jaquze White and Garrett Wilkins. They will run in the 400-meter relay and 800 relay.
Wanda Jones, president of the Hunters Glen IV homeowners association, said when the police reached out to her she knew exactly what she would do.
“I work with the band and I’m very supportive of the children,” Jones said.
After tapping her family for funds, she sent out an email blast to the Hunters Glen IV board, which raised $500.
Taunja Fisher, co-owner of Car Star Auto and Body Shop at 826 Texas Parkway in Stafford, said she and her husband felt the same way. She is a former Marshall teach-er.
On Friday, Missouri City officials presented the coach and some of the runners with a $2,000 check.
The students smiled but were mostly quiet as city leaders gave them praise.
After the ceremony, Heard told the athletes about his journey as a 2005 Marshall graduate and his decision to become a police officer. He joined the police department in 2009 in part because he wanted it to show the community more compassion than he felt during an encounter with police as a teen.
“You always hear the narrative that the police don’t care about the community, but these guys did not hesitate one bit when it came time to step up and make it happen,” Heard said. “They were about action.”
Zimmer said it was an easy decision.
“We expect these kids all year long to stay out of trouble, stay out of drugs,” Zimmer said. “The first chance they get to go and they can’t because of money? There was no way that was going to happen. No one has an issue sending one of the greatest schools in Missouri City to the nationals.”