Celebrating 30 Years of Life-Changing Experiences!

Leave your legacy

  • GOAL: $100,000+ to help 5,000+ athletes. 4.3% 4.3%

Today, Tomorrow, Together.

Your support this season will enable us to help thousands more student-athletes leave a legacy of their own.

For more than 30 years the NSAF has built a legacy like no other. More than 225,000 student athletes have participated in our programs. Throughout our history, we’ve distributed more than $4 million in development grants for clubs and teams, and travel grants to help athletes compete at the highest level.

Your generous, tax-deductible investment will help us continue to provide thousands of student-athletes life-changing experiences, which in turn, will empower them to build a lasting and valuable legacy. With your support, they will have access to the opportunities our programs make possible today, tomorrow, together.

This is where your legacy truly begins.

Today, Tomorrow, Together.

Your support this season will enable us to help thousands more student-athletes leave a legacy of their own.

For more than 30 years the NSAF has built a legacy like no other. More than 225,000 student athletes have participated in our programs. Throughout our history, we’ve distributed more than $4 million in development grants for clubs and teams, and travel grants to help athletes compete at the highest level.

Your generous, tax-deductible investment will help us continue to provide thousands of student-athletes life-changing experiences, which in turn, will empower them to build a lasting and valuable legacy. With your support, they will have access to the opportunities our programs make possible today, tomorrow, together.

This is where your legacy truly begins.

The NSAF Legacy

$4 million+ in grants

419 Olympians

60+ NFL players

193 Olympic medals

Stories from the field

We’ve made it our passion and priority to provide life-changing opportunities for youth and young adults to push beyond their own limits, to achieve the impossible and to lead successful lives on and off the track. Maybe you were one of them.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

The Mental Side: Developing the Whole Athlete

Dr. Margaret Ottley

Whether you encounter her during her dynamic classroom seminars at the NSAF’s High Performance clinics, international Team NSAF competitions, or creatively ministering to the ailing in the medical tent at Nike Indoor or Outdoor Nationals, sports psychologist Dr. Margaret Ottley is a ubiquitous and unique presence for the NSAF – offering something rarely found and sorely needed on and off the field. Her passion for performance, mental health and wellness has not only inspired an incredible body of work with Olympic and collegiate athletes from multiple nations, but also youths and parents in diverse and underrepresented communities that have been part of NSAF programs.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Eye-Opening Experiences

Coach Malcolm Burks & Newburgh

A new world was opened up for Coach Malcolm Burks and the track & field teams of Newburgh Free Academy (N.Y.), thanks to NSAF travel and development grants that helped enable them to compete in Select Meets around the country, as well as purchase needed equipment and fill training needs. These grants have been part of the reason why Newburgh has had an elite program for more than two decades.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

When That Desire Meets That Destiny

Charles Clark

Little did Charles Clark know that on that weekend with Team NSAF in Puerto Rico 16 years ago, he would have individual character- and team-building experiences that would take him on a road to manifest success not only on the track at FSU and with Team USA, but in his life beyond. He began to develop the tools that would help him overcome the adversity of a career-ending injury, become a motivational speaker and mindset coach, and start a non-profit foundation to help students.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Realized Potential

Allyson Felix

When we think of our NSAF mission to provide opportunities for high-potential student athletes to discover and cultivate their talent, athletes like Olympic legend Allyson Felix come immediately to mind. The NSAF and U.S. Juniors she contested back in 2001 led to her first IAAF World Youth and Junior gold medals. In turn, that launched an amazing 20-year international career that includes 6 Gold and 11 total Olympic Medals. Just as important, Felix is a true ambassador for the sport on many levels.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Opening Doors to the World

Sydnee Walker

The NSAF takes seriously its mission to open doors to the world for our youth, through athletics, and providing them opportunities to succeed. That’s the key purpose behind the Team NSAF international competition trips it has staged for many years to nations like Cuba and Iceland. Those invited are chosen because we believe they may have the chance to represent Team USA in the near future, and these trips provide an introduction to what they will experience. Not everyone becomes an Olympian, but these student-athletes learn valuable lessons for college and beyond. Team NSAF Cuba 2016 alum Sydnee Walker is one of the shining examples of those who are succeeding in life, thanks in part to what they gained from NSAF events.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Balancing Team and Individual Glory

Mike McCabe and Union Catholic

The NSAF has always been about serving the entire prep track & field/cross-country community, not just the best of the best. That’s why the NSAF championships are so valuable for coaches like USTFCCCA Coach of the Year Mike McCabe of Union Catholic (N.J.) – who not only has mentored all-time great Sydney McLaughlin, but a deep well of student-athletes who vie every year for the podium at The Indoor and Outdoor Nationals.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

NSAF Alum Power Couple

Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall

When Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall competed in the NSAF’s Indoor Nationals in 2017, their backgrounds and experiences couldn’t have been more different. Davis, a superstar from California, came through with long jump and 60m hurdle titles, plus a triple jump second. Woodhall, already a 2x Paralympic medalist in the sprints from Utah, was competing at Nationals and encountering the NY media for the first time. They had met and become friends at the Simplot Games weeks earlier (an NSAF Select Meet), but were a long way from the track & field “power couple” they are today.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Heart of a Lion

Logan Patete

Logan Patete thought his prep running career was history. But once his mentor, Coach Robert Roddy, told him about The Outdoor Nationals – well, Logan just had to find a way to get to Eugene. Against all odds, he would epitomize the spirit of the NSAF in his great adventure.​

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Preparing athletes for life

Dr. Janice Davis II

Janice Davis II twice made U.S. national teams and competed in four different countries … all before her 17th birthday. The NSAF’s travel grant program helped provide opportunities for success, lifelong lessons, and relationships that have followed Dr. Davis through her Olympic dreams and into her career as an M.D.

Young male runner receiving a baton

Promoting opportunity and equity

Boys’ Relay Team

On July 21, 2002, at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, the US team of Ashton Collins, Wes Felix, Ivory Williams and Willie Hordge, ran 38.92 for the World Junior Record in the 4×100 meter relay. Ironically, Collins, Williams and Hordge had not planned on running at the USATF Junior Championships that year–the qualifying event for the World Junior team.  Read on to see how the NSAF enabled the world record that almost wasn’t.

Three high school students sprinting from a starting line

Supporting programs, changing lives

St. Stephens Indian School

Billy Brost had his work cut out for him when he took over as head track & field coach at St. Stephens Indian School in Riverton, Wyoming during the 2015-16 school year. There were just two student-athletes in the program and much of the equipment and uniforms were outdated or in bad shape. But with a healthy dose of energy and enthusiasm, plus a few NSAF development grants, Coach Brost has turned St. Stephen’s into a rising track power in Wyoming.

Runner Marquise Goodwin holding an American flag

Empowering champions

Marquise Goodwin

NSAF alum Marquise Goodwin, a 2012 Olympian and NFL star, stands as a prime example of what Team NSAF can help achieve. Team NSAF offers incomparable international competition opportunities to rising star student-athletes who show the potential to represent Team USA some day at the Olympics and other international championships. The NSAF looks for individuals who show not only talent, but character and leadership skills. No one has epitomized these characteristics more than Marquise Goodwin.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

When That Desire Meets That Destiny

Charles Clark

Little did Charles Clark know that on that weekend with Team NSAF in Puerto Rico 16 years ago, he would have individual character- and team-building experiences that would take him on a road to manifest success not only on the track at FSU and with Team USA, but in his life beyond. He began to develop the tools that would help him overcome the adversity of a career-ending injury, become a motivational speaker and mindset coach, and start a non-profit foundation to help students.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

The Mental Side: Developing the Whole Athlete

Dr. Margaret Ottley

Whether you encounter her during her dynamic classroom seminars at the NSAF’s High Performance clinics, international Team NSAF competitions, or creatively ministering to the ailing in the medical tent at Nike Indoor or Outdoor Nationals, sports psychologist Dr. Margaret Ottley is a ubiquitous and unique presence for the NSAF – offering something rarely found and sorely needed on and off the field. Her passion for performance, mental health and wellness has not only inspired an incredible body of work with Olympic and collegiate athletes from multiple nations, but also youths and parents in diverse and underrepresented communities that have been part of NSAF programs.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Realized Potential

Allyson Felix

When we think of our NSAF mission to provide opportunities for high-potential student athletes to discover and cultivate their talent, athletes like Olympic legend Allyson Felix come immediately to mind. The NSAF and U.S. Juniors she contested back in 2001 led to her first IAAF World Youth and Junior gold medals. In turn, that launched an amazing 20-year international career that includes 6 Gold and 11 total Olympic Medals. Just as important, Felix is a true ambassador for the sport on many levels.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Opening Doors to the World

Sydnee Walker

The NSAF takes seriously its mission to open doors to the world for our youth, through athletics, and providing them opportunities to succeed. That’s the key purpose behind the Team NSAF international competition trips it has staged for many years to nations like Cuba and Iceland. Those invited are chosen because we believe they may have the chance to represent Team USA in the near future, and these trips provide an introduction to what they will experience. Not everyone becomes an Olympian, but these student-athletes learn valuable lessons for college and beyond. Team NSAF Cuba 2016 alum Sydnee Walker is one of the shining examples of those who are succeeding in life, thanks in part to what they gained from NSAF events.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Balancing Team and Individual Glory

Mike McCabe and Union Catholic

The NSAF has always been about serving the entire prep track & field/cross-country community, not just the best of the best. That’s why the NSAF championships are so valuable for coaches like USTFCCCA Coach of the Year Mike McCabe of Union Catholic (N.J.) – who not only has mentored all-time great Sydney McLaughlin, but a deep well of student-athletes who vie every year for the podium at The Indoor and Outdoor Nationals.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

NSAF Alum Power Couple

Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall

When Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall competed in the NSAF’s Indoor Nationals in 2017, their backgrounds and experiences couldn’t have been more different. Davis, a superstar from California, came through with long jump and 60m hurdle titles, plus a triple jump second. Woodhall, already a 2x Paralympic medalist in the sprints from Utah, was competing at Nationals and encountering the NY media for the first time. They had met and become friends at the Simplot Games weeks earlier (an NSAF Select Meet), but were a long way from the track & field “power couple” they are today.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Heart of a Lion

Logan Patete

Logan Patete thought his prep running career was history. But once his mentor, Coach Robert Roddy, told him about The Outdoor Nationals – well, Logan just had to find a way to get to Eugene. Against all odds, he would epitomize the spirit of the NSAF in his great adventure.​

Runner Janice Davis on a race track wearing a Stanford jersey

Preparing athletes for life

Dr. Janice Davis II

Janice Davis II twice made U.S. national teams and competed in four different countries … all before her 17th birthday. The NSAF’s travel grant program helped provide opportunities for success, lifelong lessons, and relationships that have followed Dr. Davis through her Olympic dreams and into her career as an M.D.

Young male runner receiving a baton

Promoting opportunity and equity

Boys’ Relay Team

On July 21, 2002, at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, the US team of Ashton Collins, Wes Felix, Ivory Williams and Willie Hordge, ran 38.92 for the World Junior Record in the 4×100 meter relay. Ironically, Collins, Williams and Hordge had not planned on running at the USATF Junior Championships that year–the qualifying event for the World Junior team. Read on to see how the NSAF enabled the world record that almost wasn’t.

Three high school students sprinting from a starting line

Supporting programs, changing lives

St. Stephens Indian School

William Brost had his work cut out for him when he took over as head track & field coach at St. Stephens Indian School in Riverton, Wyoming during the 2015-16 school year. There were just two student-athletes in the program and much of the equipment and uniforms were outdated or in bad shape. But with a healthy dose of energy and enthusiasm plus a few NSAF development grants, Coach Brost has turned St. Stephen’s into a rising track power in Wyoming.

Runner Marquise Goodwin holding an American flag

Empowering champions

Marquise Goodwin

NSAF alum Marquise Goodwin, a 2012 Olympian and NFL star, stands as a prime example of what Team NSAF can help achieve. Team NSAF offers incomparable international competition opportunities to rising star student-athletes who show the potential to represent Team USA some day at the Olympics and other international championships. The NSAF looks for individuals who show not only talent, but character and leadership skills. No one has epitomized these characteristics more than Marquise Goodwin.

YOUR STORIES. SHARED. 

Ann Weller

I think NSAF is a wonderful organization. Both my kids ran track and X-C in high school, and one did in college. The sport made a great impact on their lives.

Suzanne Blake

I am forever grateful to have been a part of the NSAF and PJG family.
All the money in the world would not pay for the valuable life lessons, training, friendships, travel opportunities and memories that Zechariah has had because of you guys!!

BERNICE DeMello

My late husband (Larry Byrne) and I have been involved with NSAF since it’s inception. It’s been rewarding to watch HS athletes progress over the years into collegiates, professionals and olympians. NSAF has cultivated some amazing individuals. Kudos to the athletes, coaches, officials, administration and especially the parents!

Steve Underwood

Since I first encountered the NSAF 20 years ago, I felt like they were at the epicenter of high school track and field in this country. Now having been a part of them for several years, even those words are inadequate to describe how I feel. They are the heart and soul of the sport and I’m proud to be a part of them!

Bob & Connie Houlihan

The NSAF played a valuable part in Shelby’s growth as a runner. Without these great opportunities, Shelby wouldn’t have been able to see what she was capable of accomplishing in the track and field area. We, along with Shelby, will always appreciate the part that NSAF played in our lives.

Josephus Lyles

I competed in many NSAF events, include Nationals Indoor & Outdoors and the trips to Cuba.

I feel like all these races gave me a lot of experience raising fast people as well as experience leaving the country. I feel like it brought a lot of people together that were talented, which is important to raise talent going to the next level.

Share your NSAF story.

Connect with us to share your NSAF story or post on social media, using #IRunWithNSAF.

We invite you to leave your legacy today for athletes tomorrow.

Together, we can continue to make a difference on and off the track.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track

Heart of a Lion

Logan Patete

Logan Patete thought his high school running career was over.

The Leander HS (Cedar Park, TX) senior had sprained his foot this past April before his regional meet, unable to get a chance to qualify for 5A state. Shin splints had already thwarted his cross country season the previous fall. So he figured his focus during the last weeks of school and the summer, before heading to University of South Carolina Upstate, would be relegated to healing up, graduating and earning money with his summer job.

But as it turned out, a mentor of his had other ideas. Coach Robert Roddy, founder of the Texas Thunder Track Club, had been coaching Logan since he was in middle school. When Coach Roddy found out one night about The Outdoor Nationals, the NSAF’s championship meet at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, he couldn’t even wait until the next day to tell Logan.

“One night at 11pm my coach calls me and tells me about this meet,” Logan remembered with a huge smile. “He told me, ‘You need to be there!’

Coach Roddy backs that up. “Yep, I said, ‘Logan, you have got to get to this meet! I’ve been coaching Logan since 6th grade. When he was a sophomore, running the steeplechase at AAU Nationals, he lost one of his shoes at the start. Instead of quitting or even going back to get it, he slipped the other shoe off and ran the rest of the race barefoot. It was unbelievable. The video of that race got like a million views. He has the heart of a lion.”

Two women in lab coats smiling

Logan’s parents were excited about the idea of his traveling to The Outdoor Nationals, but there was no money to travel to Eugene. Nor could his parents have gone with him, since his mother was due to have a surgical procedure. But nothing was going to stop Logan from making it to Hayward. “I’ve always been pretty independent and my parents trust me. They knew if I tried to do this, I’d do it responsibly.”

Logan had also already had a positive experience with another NSAF meet. Looking for a steeplechase opportunity in late March, he discovered the NSAF USA Meet of Champions in Myrtle Beach. Not only was Logan already planning to go to college in South Carolina, he had family there, too. He came to the meet and took 5th in the 2K steeple championship.

Fast forward a few months, Logan worked hard at his summer job for several weeks and started training again after his injury healed up. He saved up enough for an airline ticket, but where would he stay and how would he get around Eugene? He was too young to get a hotel room and rent a car, plus he had a budget to mind.

So Logan found an inexpensive Airbnb near Hayward Field and a sympathetic host who loaned him her bike to travel back and forth to the track. When Logan arrived for packet pickup the day before the meet, he chatted with NSAF staff and they learned of his amazing story.

“We were just thrilled to meet Logan and hear what he had done to get here,” said NSAF Executive Director Jim Spier. “The sacrifices he made and the fact that he wouldn’t let anything stand in his way is really special. He’s the epitome of what the NSAF is all about.”

Runner Janice Davis sprinting at a starting line

Logan Patete didn’t win the 2k steeple, or even make the All-American podium. But he had an experience he’ll never forget.

“It has been such a blessing, because the NSAF meets are the ones that kids dream of going to,” he says. “Those are the meets that kids aspire to compete at. And to have the opportunity to travel and go to these beautiful facilities, and compete at these big meets with other talented athletes, it’s wonderful. It’s ethereal, honestly.

“I wish every athlete who dreams of going to it would get that experience, because I don’t know what kind of athlete I would be without it.”

Logan’s great story doesn’t end there. He has taken the magic manifested from his Hayward odyssey and carried it over to USC-Update. He performed so well this fall on the school’s cross-country team that he was named Freshman of the Year in the Big South Conference.

What Logan posted on his Instagram account with the trophy he won speaks volumes about who he is. “This would not have been done without support and accountability from my teammates and family. Thank you.”

Coach Roddy was excited to hear it, but not surprised. “He’s one of a kind and I’m so proud of him.”

Runner Janice Davis sprinting at a starting line
Runner Janice Davis on a race track

NSAF Alum Power Couple

Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall

“Wow … that was such a long time ago!”

Tara Davis was reflecting on the NSAF’s 2017 Indoor Nationals, as she and fiancée Hunter Woodhall sat down recently to look back at when they first met and were high school standouts in Agoura, Calif. and Syracuse, Utah, respectively. Before their exciting NCAA careers at Texas (plus UGA) and Arkansas, respectively. Before they each shone brightly in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Four and a half years can seem like half a lifetime ago when it was your senior year in high school and now you’re a college graduate, new track & field professionals and finally engaged to be married

Those 2017 Indoor Nationals were vastly different experiences for Davis and Woodhall, who were still months away from a relationship that would eventually transform them into the sport’s premier “power couple,” as they’ve been called. They had first connected at The Simplot Games just weeks earlier, but in New York they were worlds apart. Davis, who had already broken the high school national long jump record and was arguably the top female athlete in prep track & field, was shooting for LJ and 60m hurdle titles (and maybe a third win in the triple). Meanwhile, Woodhall was coming off two medals in the 2016 Rio Paralympics and was making waves competing against able-bodied athletes.

Two women in lab coats smiling

Davis famously won her two golds – including a big 60H PR and plus a triple jump silver. The visuals of her surprise and overwhelming joy after the hurdles triumph, and celebrating with friend Trey Cunningham who smashed the boys’ HS hurdle mark immediately after, are priceless. “Thinking about it brings back so many memories,” she recalled. “That was one of the greatest meets of my life and it was so much fun. The energy in the arena was just amazing.”

The experience was much different for Woodhall, but just as valuable in its own way. As the first Paralympian competing in the high school Indoor Nationals, he was overwhelmed with media requests before and during the meet. He competed in the 400 trials, but didn’t make the final. The transformative power of his NSAF opportunity, however, was no less valuable, opening doors to a new world.

“It was definitely a challenge for me in a lot of different ways,” he said. “It felt like a necessary stepping stone or hurdle in my life to continue on, learning to be able to fight for myself and push myself and find where my limit is. It really helped prepare me for what came next, especially at the NCAA level.”

Both Davis and Woodhall have had tremendous success the past four years. Davis capped off her collegiate career at Texas this past spring with a collegiate record in the long jump (Texas Relays), an NCAA title, a runner-up performance in the Olympic Trials and then a 6th-place finish in Tokyo. Woodhall, after completing a fine four years at Arkansas – where he had become the first double amputee to earn an NCAA D1 scholarship and was a 3-time relay All-American – made a triumphant return to the Paralympics and won 400m bronze to add to his silver/bronze double from 2016.

“The Paralympic experience this time was more the accomplishment of getting through, after all of the waiting and postponements,” Woodhall said. “It was kind of a moment of closure, and so satisfying to end season that way. I really enjoyed all of people around me, the venues were amazing and the competition was awesome.”

Runner Janice Davis sprinting at a starting line

What has really made Tara and Hunter stand out, however, is the amazing social media presence they’ve cultivated on Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Tiktok and even Facebook. They’ve hence been profiled across all channels of media and even appeared on the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Woodhall first went on the show in 2020, when he was invited after the producers learned about his Paralympic journey and Ellen presented him with a $20,000 check for training expenses. This year, the couple appeared together on the show for a post-Tokyo celebration.

There was, however, no digital master plan when they started posting together in their early days as a couple four years ago. “It all went organically, more than trying to build a social media brand,” said Davis. “Once it picked up, we started doing that, but it was all organic at first.”

“We just started recording things, taking pictures of things, and posting them,” said Woodhall. “It still kind of blows my mind, that people enjoy keeping up with what we’re doing.”

Woodhall has some words of wisdom to share about student-athletes finding their voices on social media. “My advice do as much as you can without overdoing yourself,” he said. “I think it’s healthy to push yourself and operate in more than one little area. As long as you can do the things you’re doing in life efficiently, I don’t think it’s an issue and you can take it wherever it goes.”

Davis and Woodhall – who plan to marry on an undetermined date next year – are eager to get about their lives as post-collegiate professionals, and excited about what’s ahead before the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics. “We just want to win some World Championships and travel, that’s pretty much it,” Davis said with a laugh, “to live a life we haven’t yet been able to live.”

Meanwhile, they’ll cherish those high school memories and opportunities presented by the NSAF that opened doors and led them to where they are today.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track

Balancing Team and Individual Glory

Coach Mike McCabe and Union Catholic

For more than 18 years, Union Catholic H.S. (Scotch Plains, N.J.) and its head coach Mike McCabe has produced one of the nation’s outstanding track & field programs – on the state and national level, and especially in NSAF national competition.

People best know the UC program and McCabe nationally for having developed the incomparable 2-time Olympian Sydney McLaughlin – who made her first team for the Rio 2016 Games as a UC junior – meanwhile claiming a record 13 NSAF titles (7 individual and 6 relays). But McCabe’s program has achieved so much more, including 17 NSAF relay or individual crowns that didn’t include McLaughlin. In all, he has coached 91 total national champions (including relay members) and 277 All-Americans.

“Some assumed that the success McCabe’s squads had on the state and national level was just because of McLaughlin’s presence,” said Jim Lambert, Union Catholic’s Information Director and one of the nation’s best track & field/XC journalists. “But while she was certainly a huge key to their dominance, the winning and the eye-popping results haven’t changed since her graduation in 2017. In fact, the program has gotten even stronger in the past few years.”

A lot of folks don’t know that McCabe’s start in the sport was as a distance runner. During the just-completed cross-country season, his Viking boys won their first NJ Meet of Champions crown with the 2nd-fastest average time in Holmdel Park history. “I told those boys that parallels Sydney making the Olympic team for our program,” he said. “I think it’s that hard especially for us in New Jersey, to beat CBA, and to average 16:01 at Holmdel.”

In the preceding 2020-21 school year that was dramatically affected – like everything – by the COVID-19 pandemic, Coach McCabe and his teams were still able to achieve historic things. “This year stands out because of how much depth we had across all event areas,” he said. “How many coaches can say they had athletes score in every single event of a state meet? That’s unheard of.”

Two women in lab coats smiling

Then Union Catholic’s athletes came to The Outdoor Nationals and continued their great tradition with a Mixed 4×4 national title and seven other All-American performances in the relays. In August, McCabe was named the National Girls T&F Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA. “Receiving the award is great,” he said. “But there’s so many great coaches out there. I’m fortunate to have a lot of talent to work with. The 2020-21 school year was definitely a completely new challenge and forced me and my staff to approach things a little differently than we had in the past. I was most proud of how we were able to make the adjustments and – still, if anything, maybe even better than ever – compete at our best at the end of the year.”

The NSAF Indoor and Outdoor Nationals may be the perfect expression of the greatness of UC, and other programs with deep levels of talent, in that there are not only championship opportunities, but those for Emerging Elite, freshman and even middle school athletes as well.

Among the first NSAF Nationals memories that came to mind for Coach McCabe in a recent conversation was the first one in 2006. “We brought a sprint medley and that was it, 4 or 5 guys, and we got 7th,” he remembered. “And it was great! We weren’t super strong back then and it was first time we went to a national meet. As a coach, all I wanted to do was come back the next year and see if we could get on the podium. We did … and we almost won it!

McCabe also values the fact that he has opportunities to go even deeper on his roster at Nationals, thanks to the Emerging Elite and Freshman events. “When used properly (by his team), the Emerging Elite stuff has had a lot of value, especially because the standards are (still) really tough,” he said. “You could be a state champion and not get the EE standard. I also think the freshman events are good; when they have the opportunity, it’s a great goal for those kids.”

Runner Janice Davis sprinting at a starting line

Of course, McCabe’s memories of what McLaughlin did over eight incredible seasons in their program are pretty darn special, too. At NSAF Nationals, her record-setting 400m hurdle career sweep and back-to-back indoor record-smashing 400s were unforgettable, for starters. But maybe her most mind-blowing performances were anchoring relays.

When reminded, for example, of McLaughlin’s sub-50-second Swedish Medley closer in 2017, McCabe still shakes his head in amazement. “That last one she ran was insane (of four straight wins in the event); that one and her junior year indoor nationals 4×4, with Motor City out front … I still don’t think she caught that girl, it was 10 meters (distance McLaughlin was trailing) coming off the last turn. It was crazy.”

Regarding coaching McLaughlin, McCabe is perhaps most proud of the fact that they were able to take a relatively cautious approach to training and racing that kept McLaughlin almost injury-free and making steady progress for four years. “I’ve always said, and I still believe it, that she’s the best there ever was. I could see it (early) and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t deterring that in any way.”

Moments like that are what might be most special. “I think the team component (at NSAF events) is such an important piece,” he continued. “There’s so many great athletes and elite kids every year. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have those elite kids and sometimes we don’t. But you can always find a bunch of good kids and put them together (in relays). You can go win some stuff together and those are the memories you’re going to have.”

“Mike McCabe has the unique ability to get all his athletes to improve and get the most out of themselves, and he does this by constantly adapting his training plans and specializing workouts for all his athletes,” said Lambert. “He’s one of the most driven, knowledgeable, hard-working, and passionate coaches I’ve ever been around. He also cares about the lives of his athletes, and prepares them well for life after high school, both on and off the track. He has blended all those qualities to become one of the greatest all-around track and field and cross-country coaches in New Jersey history.”

Photos courtesy of Jim Lambert and John Nepolitan

Runner Janice Davis on a race track

Opening Doors to the World

Sydnee Walker

When the NSAF chooses its squads for international competitions in places like Cuba and Iceland, it picks student-athletes it believes to have a great chance to make future U.S. teams to compete in Under-20 or Senior World Championships, or even the Olympics. Of course, those selected each year won’t all excel at the next level of the sport, but the vetting process also involves identifying those of high character and/or academic achievement who could make a difference in the world “beyond the track” and would benefit from the international experience.

Sydnee Walker, who competed in the hammer and other throws on the NSAF’s second Cuba team in 2016, is a shining example of someone who may not have gotten quite as far as she would have liked to in track & field, but has been achieving great things and ascending rapidly in her chosen field.

Even before she picked up a hammer, Walker played and loved sports – all sports. Growing up in Roswell, Ga., she followed the plethora of pro and college teams in Atlanta – the NBA’s Hawks, NFL’s Falcons, MLB’s Braves and more – and often watched them on Turner’s TBS and TNT networks. Meanwhile, she was a talented, multi-sport athlete herself, including throwing events on youth and her high school’s track teams.

Prior to her sophomore year at Kings Ridge Christian in Alpharetta, Ga. in 2014, Walker had been a volleyball player and thrown the shot and discus in T&F. Then during the summer her mother took her to connect with the great hammer- and weight-throwing club founded by Mike Judge in nearby Marietta, Ga. 

“My mom found this summer throwing camp at Throw 1 Deep and signed me up for it,” she said. “She said, ‘This will be a good idea for you to check out.’

“I went there and met Coach Mike Judge and the whole crew, and they said I would be good at hammer. I really had no clue what it was. I was like, I’ll try it. I ended up picking up on it really quickly and just started training with them every weekend.”

Two women in lab coats smiling

Working with Coaches Judge and Rhonda Broome, Walker threw the weight nearly 47 feet that next winter and the hammer more than 174 feet the following spring, a stunning distance for a sophomore in her first year with the ball and chain. As a junior in March of ’16, she won the NSAF’s Indoor Nationals Emerging Elite weight throw with 54-2. That led to her selection with Team USA to Cuba in the late spring of that year.

It was the second squad the NSAF had ever sent to Cuba, following those who made the historic debut in ’15 and several years before that of the foundation taking teams to Puerto Rico where the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational (CSI) originated.

“Those trips were some of the best experiences of my life; I still talk about them to this day,” Walker recalled. “And not only just having the experience to travel abroad … just interacting with you guys. The NSAF does an amazing job providing that space for us and letting us travel and meet new people. I’ve formed some amazing relationships and friendships from there. I still keep in touch with a lot of people from that 2016 team.

“Just the NSAF providing that space for all of us athletes to compete on an international level and make those friendships is really valuable. I really appreciated it then and still do today.”

Meanwhile, Walker was attracting the interest of college coaches that spring, during which she improved to 177 feet. One of those was the throws coach at the University of Oregon. “Coach (Eric) Whitsitt invited me on a visit and the rest is history,” she remembered. Walker was interested in the university’s School of Journalist and Communications and already had some career aspirations in that area, should track & field not take her to the professional level.

Runner Janice Davis sprinting at a starting line

Walker competed for the Ducks during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, but then suffered an injury that waylaid her competitive plans.

“I know how major her injury was to her T&F career, that she had to basically retire. And she handled it with such grace and purpose,” said Dean E. Mundy, Ph.D., Associate Director and PR Area Director of the U. of O. School of Journalism and Communications. “I remember meeting with her almost immediately after it happened, and she wanted to discuss her double major and what she could do to get ahead and position herself professionally. She didn’t let the injury stop her. She pivoted as if to say, ‘Ok, that door closed. But I’m going to use that time and energy to open another one.’”

Walker graduated with BA’s in Journalist and Public Relations in 2021 and was chosen as the commencement speaker. She is now working at Turner Sports in the Marketing & PR division at Turner Sports, supporting the media giant’s MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA Properties.

She has also launched an exciting venture called The Collaborative in April of 2020, with her friend, Ryan Ballis. The Collaborative is focused on connecting the sports and entertainment Industry with journalists and PR professionals.  At 22, she is a pioneer, making a difference in sports media for women and young professionals in general.

“She works tirelessly to not only hone her professional skills, but also to build lasting relationships,” Mundy said. “She is kind, thoughtful, steady, and incredibly smart and one of the most driven students I’ve ever had. Yet, despite her success, she remains humble. People are drawn to her because of that combination of qualities, which made her the ideal commencement speaker.”

Runner Janice Davis on a race track

Realized Potential

Allyson Felix

Most fans of track & field are well aware of the incredible legacy 5-time Olympian Allyson Felix has authored during more than 20+ years in the sport. Not so many know the story of the 9th-grade basketball player who tried out for the track team at Los Angeles Baptist HS and in the next three years would blossom so quickly into a prep legend that captured three World Youth and World Junior medals with Team USA in locales as diverse as Hungary and Jamaica.

Let there be no doubt, the Allyson Felix who became a 6-time Olympic Gold Medalist had a high school career nearly as amazing, one that launched her directly into all of the achievements that followed. When she gave her speech at the NSAF’s first National High School Track & Field Hall of Fame ceremony in 2018, as the final inductee of the night, she proclaimed, “All of the lessons I learned in high school really gave me the foundation to be able to continue on and be successful.”

Felix has always had wonderful coaches and family support. As a prep, she also had the NSAF’s (Nike) Indoor Nationals and (adidas) Outdoor Nationals when she was a sophomore in 2001. Her All-American performances there were part of a resume’ that led to her selection on the U.S. World Youth team to compete that summer in Debrecen, Hungary. There Felix scored a stunning 100m triumph and led the U.S. medley relay to another Gold. An international star was born.

“I don’t have to tell you guys how special this sport is,” Felix said in that Hall of Fame induction speech. “It has the power to change lives … and it changed mine. It introduced me to a completely different world that I had no idea about, and it gave me the opportunity to have a better life than I ever could have imagined. High school track & field has the power to do that.”

Two women in lab coats smiling

Most folks know the NSAF for the Indoor and Outdoor Nationals it’s been holding since 1991, providing life-changing experiences for more than 220,000 athletes. But deeper down, it’s also been about creating opportunities for high-potential student-athletes to discover and cultivate their talent regardless of socio-economic status — that was what Jim Spier and Mike Byrnes were trying to do even before they founded the NSAF 30+ years ago. After all, the stated mission is, “opening doors to the world for our youth, through athletics, and providing them opportunities to succeed.”

One manifestation of this mission has always been helping outstanding young athletes learn about and get to Team USA-qualifying meets. Felix the next year would qualify from the USA Junior meet in Palo Alto to the U.S. team for the 2002 World Juniors in Jamaica (now Under-20 Championships), despite being just 16. She was 5th in the 200, won a 4×100 silver and learned many valuable lessons competing against older athletes

Fast-forward 19 years: At this past summer’s Tokyo Olympics, Felix, at age 35 and mother of a 2-year-old, blazed to a bronze-medal finish in the 400 meters with a near-PR 49.46. Then, with an amazing lineup of other NSAF alums, she won her sixth Olympic gold as part of the USA 4×400, which at 3:16.85 ran the fastest of any American quartet in 28 years. Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad and Athing Mu – with 16 NSAF titles between them from 2007-2018 – made up the fabulous foursome for the ages.

Felix has always been an ambassador for the sport, but as her career transitions from international competition, the causes and ventures she is passionate about come to the forefront. As a New York Times story noted, she has “become a fierce advocate in recent years for female athletes, for mothers and for gender equality.” And in a recent piece on CNN.com, she also noted wanting to use her platform to bring positive change in racial equality.

Runner Janice Davis sprinting at a starting line

In that story, Felix also discussed a new partnership with an insurance company, Anthem, which conducted a study into the social drivers that affect people’s health in the U.S. “The campaign hopes to trigger a national conversation about well-being and improve people’s awareness of the things in life that can have a negative impact on one’s health.”

Felix and her brother Wes – always known as a rock of support in all aspects of Allyson’s life – also recently founded “Saysh,” a women’s lifestyle/footwear brand that sets another example of what can be achieved. Saysh has merited significant international attention across all forms of media and was honored by Footwear News as its Launch of the Year for 2021.

These ventures only scratch the surface of what Felix has given and continues to give to the track & field community and how she has become a role model in many ways for young people can aspire to accomplish.

“I’m so grateful for the people who have invested in my life,” Felix said. “We never accomplish anything alone and there are a whole host of people who have contributed to my success. And it all started in high school.”

The NSAF, with the support provided by generous donors in this Legacy Fund Campaign, will always be there to invest in the lives of young people on the sport, and do all it can to contribute to their success – on the track and off, and during their careers in the sport and beyond.

Runner Janice Davis on a race track

When That Desire Meets That Destiny

Charles Clark

When professional motivational speaker and mindset coach Charles Clark digs deep into his memory, to that weekend 16 years ago when as a Bayside (Va.) High School senior he arrived in Puerto Rico as part of Team NSAF to compete in the first Caribbean Scholastic Invitational, he recalls both the instant and long-term impact of that experience.

“I remember getting on the bus, arriving to the track and being around all of these other high-level athletes,” he says. His new teammates included future Olympians Jessica Beard and Bianca Knight. Clark himself would become an IAAF World Championship 200m finalist three years later in 2009, finishing 6th in a race won by Usain Bolt. “It inspired me a lot. It was special because I was selected; a lot of athletes get to compete, but a lot of athletes don’t get a chance to be selected as one of the best. It was an honor to be part of that experience and a great start to the career that I had in track & field.”

Clark was selected for Team NSAF, in part, because of his fantastic performances as a Bayside senior in 2006. At Nike Indoor Nationals that year, he won the 200m and finished 2nd in the 60. Then, after an extraordinary 100/200/400 triple at the Virginia 3A state meet, he made it a Nike Indoor/Outdoor double in the 200m, anchored his Bayside crew to the 800 sprint medley national title and took 3rd in the 100m for good measure.

At FSU, Clark then became a three-time NCAA champion and a 10-time NCAA All-American – in addition to finishing 2nd in the 2009 USATF 200m and then making that 200m World final in Berlin.

Two women in lab coats smiling

Clark realizes that the experience with Team NSAF in Puerto Rico didn’t only jumpstart him to the success he had at Florida State and with Team USA the next 3-5 years, but also to overcoming adversity with a career-ending quadricep injury and reinventing himself to who he is today.

“It takes a village, right? You can’t do this by yourself,” he ways. “I always say that success doesn’t happen in isolation, it happens in collaboration. The fact that you guys (the NSAF) saw something in me, which helped me see something even greater in myself. It helped amplify that success and maybe even helped expedite the success I wanted to happen.

“So yeah, I don’t attribute my pure talent alone to success that I had. Yes, talent is important, but it’s those skills and having people around me to nurture those skills into something that is beyond extraordinary, in most people’s cases. I absolutely believe NSAF was a big part of that. And also the coaches that I’ve had with Bayside (Lanny Doan), and my college career at FSU (sprint coach Ken Harnden) were a big asset to my success.”

Clark was also coming to realize that in order to get where he wanted to be, that he would need to more deeply embrace the “student” part of student-athlete and has words of wisdom for those facing the same challenges.

“For athletes in this type of position, to be selected (as an athlete) comes naturally, but might not come as natural for them academically. But there has to be this desire in you to take ownership for that struggle. And when you own that, that desire meets that destiny.”

“You will do anything that you need to do to make that happen. You won’t let one thing deter you or stop you from living that dream of wearing that team emblem across your chest or do something that’s beyond the ordinary … as I like to say, to ‘rise and thrive.’ You’ll find a way to make it work and that was the case for me.”

Runner Janice Davis sprinting at a starting line

Clark sat out his first semester at FSU while retaking standardized tests to get the scores he needed – taking the SAT four times and the ACT once. He came up 80 points short during his final SAT test, but later that day found out he had passed the ACT by a single point.

Buoyed by that success, Clark earned ACC All-Academic honors three times during his Seminole career and also won the school’s Weaver-James-Corrigan Honorary Award for his athletic and academic achievements.

Overcoming academic adversity provided Clark with tools to excel in life beyond the track when he suffered the career-ending injury in 2011.

“Everything has a purpose, even the worst experiences in life, they add up to a moment that you’re getting ready to prepare for,” he says. “A lot of times people like to put those bad moments and their past lives under the rug, then try to move on to something else, But the more we’re able to tie those things together, the better we are able to experience this next destination.

“I’ve found that to be the case with tearing my quad … I had to learn to use all of those things to build greater strength and resilience to where I am now. And everybody has the ability to do that. That’s when we really see the superhero in who we are.”

After the humbling experience of moving back home with family, Clark began writing music, continued an already budding singing career, started a photography business and started giving talks to students. He eventually started a non-profit foundation to help students in need.

Now, over the past decade, he says he’s given more than 500 talks and helped change the lives of more than 600,000 students. He also teaches others how to become motivation speakers. He’s given away over $20,000 in educational scholarships through his What Matters Foundation.

“Companies wanted to hear my story. And it wasn’t just so much the story of becoming 6th fastest man in world, but the story of my struggle,” he says. “They wanted to hear that, they wanted to know that it’s ok (the struggle), but then what’s the way to get out of it.

“I started to not be ashamed of what I went through. And that was a process, because many times I think we try to tell the filtered version of it. But the more I shared myself, I was owning me, and the more it gave me the freedom to fully love me and build a career doing this. That was an amazing thing that happened to me that I didn’t know was possible.”

Runner Janice Davis on a race track

Eye-Opening Experiences

Coach Malcolm Burks and Newburgh

Veteran Newburgh Free Academy HS (N.Y.) head coach Malcolm Burks, mentor for more than 20 years of one of the nation’s outstanding prep track & field programs, remembers the first time he was able to take some of his top athletes to the Arcadia Invitational in California back in 2003 – thanks in large measure to the NSAF’s Travel Grant program.

“It was really an eye-opener for them, not just the level of competition, but a different way of life,” he recalls. “I remember it being standing-room only every day out there. It was like the Super Bowl for us. Being about to travel to a major out-of-state meet was a chance for these kids to see something outside of Newburgh, a chance for them to understand what it means to travel, because for some of them, they’ve never been on a flight before.”

Coach Burks and Newburgh have been some of the many recipients over more than 30 years of the NSAF’s Travel Grant and Development Grant programs. When Jim Spier and the late Michael Byrnes founded the non-profit NSAF, one of their biggest goals – even before its high school nationals were established – was to provide opportunities for athletes and teams to attend major competitions that would prepare them for U.S. Junior Nationals and an opportunity to represent the U.S. internationally. The NSAF works with meet directors like Rich Gonzalez at Arcadia and Steve Schoenwald at the Mobile (Ala.) Meet of Champions to help these experiences come to fruition.

Burks, who had served in the military, trained and coached in Europe for more than 15 years before taking over at Newburgh, understood the importance of such opportunities. “Competition-wise, you just can’t beat that,” he says. “But the trip and traveling together like that also just really meshed us together. As a coach, you really get to know the kids’ personalities.”

Two women in lab coats smiling

Over the past two decades, Burks has taken Newburgh’s boys team to numerous state individual and team titles and All-American finishes, as well as half a dozen national titles – especially in the 4×400 relay that has become the program’s calling card.

“A lot of these kids come from a very tough economic situation,” says Burks, “and without those grants, a lot of those trips, we couldn’t have done it. You can’t squeeze water out of a rock. “We really appreciate what the NSAF does with this. My kids understand the responsibility when you have someone that’s backing you. It’s not just about you, but it’s about everybody. Now you’re connected with certain groups and we expect to do well. They understand that because I understand that.”

Burks was a Newburgh Class of ’79 grad himself, but it was what he learned training and coaching overseas that established the foundation for the coach he’s become. “Some of my best coaching methods came from overseas,” he says. “In Europe, they train like the Jamaicans, they really work on biomechanics, really break you down and then build you back up. You have to break down every single individual athlete.”

The most important thing for Burks, however, is that his track & field athletes are successful in the classroom as well. “In my 25 years my biggest accomplishment is that 98 percent of my kids have left high school to attend college. That’s what we’re all about. From the last couple years, we’ve had kids going to Penn State, Arizona, LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi State … That’s what were all about, not just about today, but about tomorrow. My main objective is prepare these young men for the future.”

“The NSAF, along with DyeStat, have been the best thing that’s come along for high school track & field,” he says. “It’s tougher now; everybody wants to hold a national meet, there’s money involved and they think they can put out a nice looking backpack and they’ll come. But to me, it’s more than that. It’s bigger than the bookbag. The NSAF has longevity, which I really respect. You can’t be around that long unless you do it well.”

Runner Janice Davis on a race track

The Mental Side: Developing the Whole Athlete

Dr. Margaret Ottley

Whether you encounter her during her dynamic classroom seminars at the NSAF’s High Performance clinics, international Team NSAF competitions, or creatively ministering to the ailing in the medical tent at Nike Indoor or Outdoor Nationals, sports psychologist Dr. Margaret Ottley is a ubiquitous and unique presence for the NSAF – offering something rarely found and sorely needed on and off the field. Her passion for performance, mental health and wellness has not only inspired an incredible body of work with Olympic and collegiate athletes from multiple nations, but also youths and parents in diverse and underrepresented communities that have been part of NSAF programs.

Part of what sets the NSAF and its events apart is the focus on not just championship events, but on inspiring and empowering athletes on and off the track. And manifesting that athlete empowerment during these meets, trips and clinics is about more than just technique, training and competing. It’s also about teaching the mental aspects of athletic performance and supporting mental health and wellness, and that’s where Dr. Ottley comes in.

It was beyond serendipitous when the NSAF’s late coach and board member Cedric Walker discovered Dr. Ottley and witnessed her work with her native Trinidad and Tobago national team at the World Junior Championships in Beijing in 2006. Dr. Ottley was an associate professor of sports psychology at West Chester University in the U.S. and already with a vast well of diverse experience working with young elite athletes. Walker instinctively knew what she had to offer could be a great benefit to the student athletes in NSAF programs.

Two women in lab coats smiling

The following spring at the Penn Relays, Walker introduced Dr. Ottley to NSAF Director Jim Spier, COO Joy Kamani and Board Member Paul Limmer and, by that summer, was part of the 2nd CSI in Puerto Rico. In the 15 years since, she has become an indispensable part of the NSAF medical staff at clinics, international meets, and national championships, indoors and out.

Dr. Ottley’s inspirational fuel for sports psychology came from her own athletic career, first in track & field, and then for 14 years as an standout national team field hockey player for Trinidad & Tobago. But when her national teams eventually struggled during international competition beyond the Caribbean, she found herself internalizing the disappointing losses. “It started affecting my self-concept,” she recalls. “I didn’t have skill set to do anything about it, so I plateaued and literally hung up my boots.”

But while witnessing her nation’s soccer team during its own international challenges, Ottley learned that team had a behavioral psychologist working with them. “I thought that was fascinating,” she says. She not only came to realize that was what was missing from her own field hockey teams, but she eagerly embraced it as a field of study to create a gift she could give to others. “I thought, this could be the best career in the world, being able to stay inside of sports and I’ll be playing for life.”

Dr. Ottley’s educational journey began as an undergrad at Spelman College (1990-93) and then she was accepted straight into a doctoral program at Temple University (1994-2000). “They gave me the range to do what I wanted in my research, movement aesthetics, learning the dynamics of the body. When I sit with the coaches and watch the videos, it’s all about body control, even though I’m inside the psychology of it, I take things from a psycho physiological perspective.”

Two women in lab coats smiling

Since 2001, Dr. Ottley has served as a full professor of sport & exercise psychology in the exercises sciences department at West Chester University. She is the founder and Chair of SANKO-FA HP (HyPower Performance), Sport, Exercise & Performance Psychology since 2010. She served two countries at four Olympic Games – Trinidad & Tobago: Rio 2016, London 2012 and Athens 2004; and USATF at the Beijing Olympics 2008. She also traveled with USATF teams to IAAF World Youth, World Juniors & Pan American Juniors. Her full profile HERE begins to tell the story of all she has done in the past decades.

“What I love about our program (the clinics) is that it’s about practice, practice and that detecting and correction of error. I do it with them using mental imagery. I work side by side with the coaches, so I know what they are trying to do. It’s a physical thing and it’s also mental, and there’s no separation between the brain and the body.

“Motor programs form in the brain. When the athletes talk to me about triple jump (for example), their body position and trying to correct it in air, I get that. The brain is trying to figure it out, and I help them to trick the brain so that they’re doing it already, they can close their eyes and see what coach is trying to get them to do.”

It was also serendipitous that as the vital need of mental health education, nurturing and support became more recognized and accepted, Ottley began a 2-year program at West Chester to get a second Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Two women in lab coats smiling

“It was a game changer for me,” she says. “Mental health issues were always there … (but) just before the pandemic, I actually just decided the athletic population is changing, that I was seeing more clinical issues, and that I needed to immerse myself inside of clinical mental health.” By the time she graduated from that program in December of 2019, she adds, “It gave me a boost … now I could see the whole athlete in a different way.”

As another validation of the breadth and depth of her overall accomplishments, Dr. Ottley was honored last month with giving the Coleman Griffith Sports Psychology lecture at the annual Association of Applied Sports Psychology (AASP) conference in Fort Worth. She was also recognized as the first Black AASP Fellow. The late Griffith is the founder of modern sports psychology.

Dr. Ottley’s sessions and mission involves far more than just getting athletes to perform at their best. Her work also focuses on cultural identity, character, self-regulation, mental flexibility and resilience – all of which contribute to a student-athlete’s overall well-being, on and off the track and field of play. Many athletes and parents stay in touch with her far after their involvement with the NSAF, even beyond high school into college and their careers.

“Sports saves lives,” she says, “So I am always for the idea of ‘let’s enter through sports,’ because athletes more willing to see someone like me in a clinical setting if they know that you understand where they’re coming from as a counselor, or as a sports person, because that’s the language they talk.”

Runner Janice Davis on a race track

Preparing athletes for life

Dr. Janice Davis II

 

Many Olympic dreams don’t end with gold medals at the top of podiums. But since its inception, the NSAF has chronicled the progress of rising track & field stars at the Youth, high school and Junior-age levels and, through its Travel Grant program, helped these athletes get to competitions – whether it be NSAF’s Select Meets, U.S. Youth or Junior meets, or the Foundation’s own indoor and outdoor nationals.

But the NSAF’s commitment is not only to opening the doors of the world to student-athletes, but remaining connected as support for whatever the next steps turn out to be. Janice Davis II had those Olympic dreams, but when that door closed, she continued to push through to a new podium. Eleven years later, she is now Dr. Janice Davis II, MD, MPH, Clinical Fellow Pediatric Anesthesiologist at one of the world’s top medical centers, Boston Children’s Hospital. 

Davis’s sprinting accomplishments certainly portended a golden future. She first forged her speed as a youngster racing with her friends in the streets of Natchez, Miss. and began summer track at age six. Over the next 3-5 years, she started winning ribbons and medals and by age nine was topping Junior Olympic podiums. 

Success continued through middle school and she won the first two of 10 Class 5A state sprint titles as a 9th-grader in the spring of 2000. Then when Davis unexpectedly finished 3rd in the U.S. Junior Women’s 400m, she was invited to compete in a Team USA dual meet in Canada, where she won that same event. “I was the youngest athlete on the team at 15,” she remembers. “My mom was super nervous!” 

At the J.O. meet in California later that summer, Davis saw some U.S. Junior team members and said to herself, “I’m going to wear that uniform someday.” She finished the summer with spectacular PRs of 23.80 and 52.92 for 200m and 400m – 1st and 2nd nationally among freshmen in those two events.

Two women in lab coats smiling

Davis’s sophomore year of 2001 was even better, this time peaking with a victory in the U.S. Junior 200 (23.38w, plus 3rd in the 100). Suddenly she was competing at the 2001 IAAF World Youth Championships in Hungary – where she faced some injury-related adversity – unable to finish her 100m heat. “I think I would have medaled if I hadn’t gotten injured,” she says.

Still, Davis was on the radar of everyone in the track world, including the NSAF – which wanted to help her on her quest to make her first World Junior team the next year, taking the next step from the Youth level. She and her family received travel grants to compete in the NSAF’s 2002 and 2003 Adidas Outdoor Championships and the 2003 USATF Juniors. These experiences were invaluable.

“Meets and trips to nationals were great exposure, allowed for family bonding and I wouldn’t have had the opportunities without the NSAF,” she says. “Track afforded me the chance to see different cultures around the world. There was a lot of education in that which you can’t find in textbooks.”

Even while still striving toward Olympic dreams, Davis was plotting her future beyond the oval. Both her academic and athletic accomplishments got her into Stanford, where the years were filled with All-American and All-PAC-10 honors, both individually and in relays. Davis’s next goal on the track was the 2008 Olympic Trials and what lay beyond. But a severe back injury waylaid those plans. It was there that the lessons learned, her support team and her ability to deal with adversity really kicked into overdrive, enabling her to move on to the next chapter.

She earned a Master of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta (2009-10), then took on the Medical University of South Carolina (2012-16), where graduated as Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) with flying colors. Next was an Anesthesiology Residency at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas (2016-20), and now she is a Clinical Fellow Pediatric Anesthesiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. 

“Because of the way I trained and pushed myself in track, medical school actually wasn’t that difficult for me,” Davis says. “You really learn time and stress management, and you pull from sports when it comes to handling adversity.

“You have to be coachable and receptive to criticism,” she adds. “You learn to control your emotions, think clearly and compartmentalize when you have to.”

Runner Janice Davis sprinting at a starting line

All along, Davis stayed connected with the NSAF COO Joy Kamani, knowing they were standing with her whatever roads she continued to choose. Her NSAF affections are tied in with memories of her late mother, Janice Davis, who passed in 2014. 

“She and Ms. Kamani would chat on the phone quite a bit,” she recalls. “Ms. Kamani has kept up with me and my progress on social media. I’m all about building positive relationships.

“My mom was my rock and the visionary for what transpired. She told me I was going to become a doctor. I definitely took a circuitous route, but she knew what she was talking about.”

Marquise Goodwin performing a high jump

Empowering champions

Marquise Goodwin

 

Marquise Goodwin was the youngest member of Team NSAF’s second Caribbean Scholastic Invitational (CSI) squad in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2007, having just completed his sophomore year at Rowlett (Texas) High School. He was already the NSAF’s Nike Outdoor Nationals long jump champion and arguably the country’s most electrifying jumper/sprinter and football player, still years away from the national record-setting Olympian and NFL star he was to become. 

Goodwin won the CSI long jump and ran leadoff on the winning 4×100. Then he did something that no one expected.

“At the end of the meet, Puerto Rico’s meet administrator Victor Lopez was thanking the crowd in Spanish,” NSAF Executive Director Jim Spier recalls. “Marquise went over to him and asked for the microphone, then proceeded to thank the crowd in English. He said, ‘We know you could have been doing other things today, but we appreciate you coming out and supporting us.’

“We were stunned and thought it was incredible to see him spontaneously do that. The public expression of gratitude for others really seemed beyond his years. I turned to Joy and said, ‘We have to bring him next year.’”

Says NSAF COO Joy Kamani, “We select kids for these events because of what they’ve done, who they are and what we know they can become. To watch them grow up and become leaders right in front of your eyes, like Marquise did, is very special.”

That was only the beginning. In 2008, Goodwin – having added the NSAF’s Nike Indoor Nationals long jump title to his resume that past winter as a junior – returned with Team NSAF to Puerto Rico as a team leader. He is the only student athlete to represent the NSAF twice in Caribbean events.

“Those meets and those trips were special to me in many ways,” says Goodwin. “I appreciate that the NSAF invited me not just once, but twice, and I was motivated not just to compete as well as I could, but help lead the team as well.”

“Later, when I made U.S. World and Olympic teams, I knew what to expect and how to handle myself at major competitions and on international trips. And I could share that with others, too.”

Goodwin’s first U.S. national team berth was only a week after that second CSI trip. He soared 25 feet to win the U.S. Junior title and punch his ticket to the 2008 IAAF World Championships. Just two weeks later in Barcelona, Goodwin leapt 25-4.75 to claim the gold medal and top the podium. 

“I had many more things I wanted to achieve, and still want to achieve,” says Goodwin, “but winning the World Junior gold in the Olympic stadium is something I’ll never forget.”

Marquise Goodwin celebrating after winning a gold medal

Incredibly, Goodwin still had another year of high school – and he made the best of it. He dominated the prep scene in Texas and nationally, and took to a new stage at the 2009 USA Championships in Eugene – that’s the senior championships, for Olympians, other pros and collegians. He rose to the occasion in dramatic fashion, breaking the 20-year-old national high school long jump record with a 26-10 – a mark which still stands today – and came within two inches of making the Team USA for the senior IAAF World Championships.

Goodwin went on to win his 2nd USA Junior title and then won a silver medal at the Pan American Juniors that summer in Trinidad & Tobago.

More than a decade later, Goodwin has continued to grow and achieve, both in track & field and football – and add to his legacy as part of the NSAF Alumni family. On the track at the University of Texas, he won two NCAA long jump titles, plus the USA Champs in 2011 and 2012 – the latter of which was also the Olympic Trials. He went on to finish 10th in the London Olympics.

On the gridiron, he was a triple threat for the Longhorns as a receiver, rusher and kick returner, catching 120 passes and scoring 10 touchdowns. He started in the 2010 BCS Championship and in the 2012 Alamo Bowl, scored two touchdowns and won the game’s MVP Award. Goodwin was then selected by the Buffalo Bills in the 2013 NFL Draft and played seven seasons with the Bills and San Francisco 49ers. 

Marquise Goodwin during an NFL game wearing a white jersey

This past April, Goodwin was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, but in July decided to sit out the season due to COVID-19. He and his wife – hurdles star Morgan Snow – had just welcomed a daughter into the world in February after losing three boys in childbirth over three years. Honoring the couple’s strength and resilience, and ultimate joy when their daughter was born, ESPN did an E60 Personal Journey Father’s Day special on the family.

“The lessons I learned in high school and with the NSAF continue to be a part of what uplifts me and my family to this day,” says Goodwin. “Any athletes who are invited to be a part of Team NSAF should take advantage of it and can benefit as I have.”

Runner Will Hordge in a navy blue SUA

Promoting opportunity and equity

Boys’ Relay Team

 

From the beginning, the NSAF’s mission has been to provide opportunities for student athletes to get the most out of their ability.  The best-known examples of these opportunities are the Indoor and Outdoor national meets.  The travel grants provided to athletes to attend USATF Junior events, however, has proven to be pivotal in the careers of many high potential athletes.  In June of 2002, sprinters Willie Hordge, Ivory Williams and Ashton Collins found out what lengths the NSAF will go to provide these life-changing opportunities, and what the payoff can be. 

Willie Hordge, 2002’s fastest high school 100m runner in the country (10.21), was in the medical tent at that June’s NSAF’s Adidas Outdoor Championships. The Forrest Brook HS (Texas) junior had just run the second fastest prelim time, but had a nagging hamstring injury and NSAF Medical Director Rob Jones was advising him not to compete in the final later that day.

NSAF COO and fellow Texan Joy Kamani had joined them, but her mind was racing ahead to the following week’s USATF Junior Championships at Stanford – which was also the qualifier for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Jamaica. The NSAF has become known over the years for its massive Indoor and Outdoor Nationals, now with more than 12,000 competitors combined. 

But the cornerstone of the NSAF mission, something co-founders Jim Spier and Mike Brynes were zeroed in on even before the Foundation was formally established, was informing athletes of USATF Junior meets and helping those who needed help getting there through their Travel Grant program. The belief is that Team USA Youth and Junior experiences can help develop athletes for the Senior level. More than 300 NSAF alums have become Team USA Olympians since 1984.

Kamani knew Hordge, already a veteran of the 2001 World Youth Championships (winning 100m and medley relay silvers), could help get Team USA on the podium in both the 100m and 4x100m relay. The selections for U.S. Youth teams back then were made by committee, so Willie hadn’t competed in a Junior meet and a Trials meet before.

“I didn’t know anything about those Junior meets,” says Hordge now. “I was a football guy, but I was getting more serious about summer track. I really wanted to do it, as long as my hamstring healed, and Ms. Kamani said they would help us.”

Runner Ivory Williams running in a black uniform

By the time those Adidas Championships had concluded, Kamani had also enrolled Ivory Williams and Ashton Collins – two more outstanding prep sprinters who starred in Raleigh – in the idea of going to Juniors. There was just one problem: Just four days’ time to help the athletes get entered, ticketed and housed for the next weekend’s meet.

But Kamani, Spier and the late NSAF coach and board member Cedric Walker were veterans at this sort of thing. After all, potential Team USA medalists don’t always manifest themselves until season’s end. Kamani and Spier knew the talented trio had great potential to make waves in Kingston.

Between Sunday and Thursday of that week, arrangements were successfully made (not without a few harrowing moments) and the trio arrived in San Francisco the day before the meet and transported to a nearby hotel.

Kamani’s and Spier’s intuition was on point. Hordge (2nd 100), Williams (4th 100, 3rd 200) and Collins (3rd 400) all made the team and were in a position to do great things in Kingston. But no one had any idea just HOW great. “We didn’t want to let down Ms. Kamani,” Hordge says, “It would have been a waste of money if we didn’t perform at the level at which we were capable.”

The next month in Kingston, Hordge took the bronze in the 100m, while Williams and Collins waited for relay duty. Due to injury to another sprinter, Collins would be running both the 4×4 and 4×1, while the trio was joined by 200m bronze medalist Wes Felix – a USC freshman. The quartet – Collins-Felix-Williams-Hordge – advanced first in qualifying for the final with a fast 39.18.

Male runner holding American flag

The final started equally promising and when Hordge took the baton on the anchor, he exploded down the track like his hair was on fire. He was being chased by 100m gold medalist Darrell Brown of Trinidad & Tobago, and a 15-year-old youngster named Usain Bolt – the Jamaican anchor who several years later would become history’s greatest sprinter.

But no one could beat the motivated Texan. He crossed the finish line with a huge smile on his face and baton thrust in the air, then turned to see the result: A World Record 38.92!! And with Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago in silver and bronze.

“It was the record that almost wasn’t,” Spier likes to say.

“The crazy thing is, I’d heard about Bolt, but I wasn’t thinking so much about him,” remembers Hordge. “I was worried about Darrell Brown!” And with good reason: While the 15-year-old Bolt had won the 200m, he was not yet an acclaimed 100m man and Brown had just beaten Hordge in the 100. 

And just in case anyone thought the result was a fluke, Hordge, Carlos Moore and both Collins brothers (Ashton and Aaron) duplicated the feat at the 2003 Pan American Juniors in Barbados, again beating Bolt on the anchor for the gold in 39.29.

While he didn’t go on to have the type of Olympic track career that Bolt did, Hordge had his own kind of success. His track and football achievements at Buffalo State (Class of 2009), which included an NCAA D3 100/200 double in 2007, earned him a spot in that university’s Hall of Fame in 2016. He played two years in the NFL and is now studying for his doctorate in physical therapy at Texas State University. He still stays in touch with Williams and said he even caught up with Bolt a few years back.

Hordge will never forget the NSAF and his adventures in track & field in 2002. “They can really help you a lot if you have some talent,” he says. “They get it done for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to travel to events like that. I never would have had those experiences if it hadn’t been for the NSAF.”

Male high school runner in a white uniform running

Supporting programs, changing lives

St. Stephens Indian School

 

Billy Brost is not without a sense of humor in describing some of what he had to work with when he took over as head track & field coach at St. Stephens Indian School (Riverton, Wyo.) in 2015-16. “I did inventory and the uniforms looked like they were from the ’80s,” he says with a grin. “We had shot puts that had been run over by lawn mowers – chunks were missing – and batons were twisted like pretzels. Desperate is an understatement.”

Coach Brost started looking up grants and fundraisers for track teams and came across the NSAF’s Tony Wells Team/Club Development Grant. He didn’t have high expectations at first, but “we got it right away, the first thing I did is bought some new shot puts, batons and starting blocks. We’ve been piecemealing everything together ever since in these five years I’ve been a head coach.”

St. Stephens also had only two student-athletes from which to start a team before his first season of 2016. Full of energy and motivation, Coach Brost convinced nearly three-quarters of the school’s students to run, jump and throw for the Eagles. “We went from three kids to 77,” he says proudly, “And we’ve never had less than 55 in the years since.” 

And it hasn’t just been the quantity of student-athletes participating in the program; the quality is improving, too. “We hadn’t had anybody qualify for our Class 1A state meet in four years, but we got three to state that first year,” says Coach Brost.  “Every year we send more than the year before. In 2019, we had seven individuals qualify for state, and out of those seven, four of them were freshmen. The goal now is to compete for a team trophy.”

Three female high school students running on a track

He’s also become pretty proficient at grant proposals, too, earning three more Tony Wells Grants. He declined the one St. Stephens won this year, though, as the WHSAA cancelled spring sports due to COVID-19. The Northern Arapaho Business Council has yet to allow tribal students on the reservation to return to its four schools, Brost said, so sports programs for these schools were closed this fall, too, and classes have remained online.

“It’s been a battle for our student-athletes,” says Coach Brost. “We use sports as a vehicle to lead success in the classroom. We take extra time with our students to begin with here in the Reservation and when we don’t have that daily interaction with them and can give them a hug or a fist-bump or sit down and talk with them and see how their life is going, it’s a struggle. Kids don’t get what they need from Zoom and our kids are suffering.

“But we are not going to risk the health of our students and our elders. We want our kids to be safe and our community to be safe.”

A big component of the NSAF’s Tony Wells (and Cedric Walker) Development Grants is a community service project, which must be proposed and then completed before the full funding is dispersed. Eagles’ team members at first dutifully completed their community service, but now it’s actually one of the things they most look forward to each spring.

St. Stephens High School track students posing on a red track

“I’m a big believer in giving back, a big service project guy,” says Coach Brost, “so when I saw that part of requirement of the grant was that our program do community service, I was like yeah, that’s going to show these kids that money doesn’t fall out of sky into our laps.

“I want my young people to understand that you do for others when you have the capability of doing that. It’s not just about winning races, earning medals and going to state, it’s about representing the community and giving of yourself when you can. And hopefully that trickles down to younger people. The first couple years the kids raised an eyebrow, but now they expect it and like to do it.

“It’s just been a phenomenal process for kids in the program and the entire community has embraced what we try and do through the service projects.”

Coach Brost and his school feel very blessed to have been awarded the Tony Wells Grant multiple times. “It helps allow me to teach, motivate and succeed. We thank our lucky stars and we will always be grateful.”