Two brothers, whose father is a former three-time national high jump champion in Algeria, make up half of Farragut’s representation as top youth track and field athletes nationwide gather in Houston this week for AAU Junior Olympics.
Mohamed Boutaleb, a rising sophomore at Farragut High School, is a special story.
Mohamed, 16, who qualified for the 1500-meter run, 2000-steeplechase and 3000 run in 15-16-year-old category, earned the annual “Jacket Award,” a light brown leisure suit jacket from his Knoxville Youth Athletics Competitive Track and Field/Cross Country program.
It’s passed on each year, going to “someone who exemplifies what we want in an athlete in the program,” Brent Smith, KTA distance coach, said. “We look at improvement, we look at performance, we take a big look at character.”
Little brother Elias Adam Boutaleb, 9, a rising fourth-grader at Northshore Elementary School, qualified for 1500 and 800 runs in the 9 age group.
Colin Summie, 9, a rising fourth-grader at Farragut Intermediate School and third-grade state champion in cross country [1-mile run], qualified in the 800 and 1500 in the 10 age group.
Ian Oosterling, a rising sixth-grade sprinter, qualified in the 100- and 200-meter runs in 11-and-12 age group.
Athletes must have finished in top six in region to quality for nationals.
“One thing that stands out with Mohamed that we’ve really been impressed with is that last summer was his first time ever competing in running,” Smith said.
“I’ve rarely seen a kid who has only been running for two years accomplish what he has,” Shane Begnaud, KYA head coach, said.
Religious demands meant Mohamed had to fast from sunrise to sunset for 25 straight days — no food or drink, even water — while training during the heat of the day. That faster period lasted through Mohamed’s region qualifying performances.
“He’s done something I’ve never seen done before: train really hard with us and improve, while he’s [unable] to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset,” Smith said. “He’s been able to do a lot despite challenges other than what every other runner faces.
“Mohamed is a little quiet, really reserved, but he is very coachable. He takes what you teach him and really tries to apply it,” Smith added.
Alias is the more outgoing Boutaleb sibling. “He’s a good kid. … He’s still trying to find his groove as a runner,” Smith said.
“Another very smart kid. Same as his brother, very athletic. … Work ethic is great,” Begnaud said. “… He can actually do any event from the 200 to the 1500.
“And a little bit more outspoken.”
Ian “is another excellent kid. Very coachable and he wants to win,” Begnaud said.
Colin “is an excellent kid. He has a strong desire to get better every single day in practice. This is his first nationals and he’s going with a purpose, that he wants to come back with a medal,” Begnaud said.