He was supposed to be a baseball player, but when he discovered that he was fast, Justin Budhu, 15, a sophomore at Freeport High School, decided to become a runner. After extensive research and with the support of his mother, Joanna Budhu, two months ago, he joined the Explosion Track Club.
“I’ve been running since the seventh grade, and played travel baseball,” Justin said, “but I wanted to run. This [track] team makes me feel great. I’m becoming a better athlete overall.”
As soon as he started training, Justin, who competes in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, quickly realized he had joined a roster of nationally ranked runners from Long Island. In fact, the Explosion Track Club, a nonprofit track and field youth organization, produces some of the top runners in the nation. The expert coaching staff and inspiring team members are just what Justin says he needs to become a top-ranked runner.
“It’s absolutely amazing, the support, the way they look out for each other — I think that’s what drew me to them at the meets,” his mother said. “Everyone chips in, everyone helps out. The older kids look out for the younger kids. It’s very family-oriented.”
Explosion competitors brought home medals from prestigious meets this winter. On Feb. 3, 8-year-old Michael Grannum, a third-grader at Brookside Elementary School in Baldwin, finished second in the New York Road Runners’ “Fastest Kid in the World” 55-meter dash at the renowned Millrose Games in Manhattan. And at the Hershey National Youth Indoor Championships on Staten Island March 9-11, Michael’s older sister, Baldwin Middle School sixth-grader Renelle Grannum, 12, and her teammates Jordyn Babb, Jenesis Bristol and Logan Daley finished third in the 11/12 girls’ 4 x 400 relay.
“We were all going crazy,” Renelle said. “I couldn’t believe we had [placed] but we did. It was so cool.”
The club got its start three years ago, when track and field coaches Hugh Daley, from Hempstead; Robert James, from Freeport; and several other coaches and parents decided to form a track club for students from every part of the county. According to Daley, watching children who were passionate about track and field inspired them.
Joanna Budhu said she was pleased that the coaches have taught the athletes not only on the track, but off it as well.
“It’s more than ‘Get on the track and run,’” she said. “They teach you what the muscles do and how best to [utilize them]. I like that. Justin [runs with them] because they understand, and they put it into motion.”
Rochelle Grannum, Renelle’s mother and one of the club’s co-founders, recalled how Explosion came about. She and a group of parents originally had their kids competing for another local track team, which Grannum didn’t want to mention by name. They were unsatisfied with the team’s organization and performance, and decided to leave. This left them with a large problem, however: What were they going to do with their kids, who had grown to love track?
“So a bunch of parents got together, knowing nothing about running an organization, and decided, we’re going to get it done,” Grannum recounted. “And that’s how we started Explosion Track Club, August 2015.”
One of the things that set Explosion apart, she said, is the emphasis on parental involvement. “When you, as a parent, put your child in a sport, you want to be able to see growth,” she said. “You want to be able to have communication with coaches, and one thing that we stress is [an] open-door policy. If there’s something that we may not be doing right, we welcome feedback.”
This has resonated with many parents. “The organization is unique in the sense that they’re very encouraging to the young athletes,” said Phillip Bristol, Jenesis Bristol’s father. “They make it a point to incorporate parental involvement for those who can help out, and it’s amazing to see. Not every parent is able to be as involved as others, but the way you see some of these parents rally behind the children and just supporting them every step of the way, from the practice, to travel, to the actual events that they’re participating in. You see the love that not just the coaches have, but that parents have for other kids.”
The club focuses on more than just the kids’ athletic success. “Something else that’s worth praising is the fact that they acknowledge the kids for their academic success as well,” said Marcus Johnson, the father of one of the runners. “It’s not just how they’re performing on the field. You have kids that are honor roll students, you have presidential award winners and a lot of solid student-athletes. They award them for those types of things as well. It keeps them motivated; it keeps them competitive. What they’re learning in this club is beyond the track field.”
“In my personal opinion it’s one of the best teams, if not the best team, on Long Island,” Johnson added. “The reason I say that is because it’s family-oriented. The coaches really know what they’re doing, and they really take their time with the kids to make sure they reach their goals.”