Kai DeGuzman signed up for a USA Track and Field Jr. Olympic event last month just looking to get a feel for where he stood against other athletes his age. The Gloucester native, who is in currently in between his sophomore and junior years of high school, never expected he would end up racing in a National competition.
After turning in standout performances in the New England and Northeast Regional events, DeGuzman earned a spot in the USATF Jr. Olympic Nationals last week in Sacramento, Ca.
"I didn't make the All-State Meet at the end of the high school season so I just wanted to get a feel for what these big meets were like," DeGuzman said. "I didn't have any expectations of qualifying for Nationals, I just wanted to compete. It was a great experience and it showed how much I have improved in the events."
DeGuzman earned a trip to the Jr. Olympic Nationals in both the 400m hurdles, which is his best event, and the triple jump.
Competing in the 15-16 year-old division, DeGuzman turned in a 19th place finish in the 400m hurdles with a time of 59:61 and placed 34th in the triple jump at 11.24m.
"The competition was heavy, but I did better than I expected I would," DeGuzman said.
The road to Sacramento and the Jr. Olympic Nationals started in the New England Regionals, where he won the 400m hurdles and finished second in the triple jump.
That earned DeGuzman a spot in the Northeast Regional in Long Island, NY. Racing in the 95-degree heat and humidity, the GHS standout comfortably beat the qualifying mark to reach Nationals, a top-five finish, by placing third in the 400m hurdles and fourth in the triple jump.
"The heat really takes its toll on you," DeGuzman said. "But there were a couple of runners that really pushed me to fight through it."
DeGuzman established himself as Gloucester's top hurdler during his sophomore year in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. He broke out in a big way during the spring season by winning the 400m hurdles at the NEC Freshman/Sophomore Meet and turning in a top five finish at the NEC Meet. DeGuzman improved on his times in both of those meets in the Jr. Olympics.