By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Savanna junior Chase Woods said people used to tell him his speed would take him places, but he’d hoped that would mean to college, or maybe to some other states.
His speed might yet send him college, but first it could send Woods to Australia. Woods was recently awarded a First Team selection to the 2014 Oklahoma State Track and Field Team, which will compete at the 2014 Down Under Sports Track & Field Meet in Brisbane, Australia, in July.
Woods said he’d found out about this opportunity when Down Under Sports sent a letter to Savanna High School. Corey Vaughan also qualified for the team in the shot put, but whether or not both Bulldogs will go remains unknown.
“It kind of just completely caught me off guard,” Woods said Saturday.
Brisbane is a city of approximately 2.2 million on the eastern coast of Australia. Woods said he doesn’t know much about Australia besides the kangaroos and the Aboriginal Australian tribes there, but he’s excited for his first opportunity to travel outside the U.S.
“I’ve been kind of wanting to leave the country and just see other places,” Woods said. “I kind of want to explore the world, but ... not many opportunities like this come around.”
One of approximately 300 U.S. athletes selected to Down Under Sports’ seven international competitions, Woods said he expects to compete in the 100 meter and 200 meter runs, plus possibly the 4x100 or 4x800 relays. He’s been running track — primarily in short-yardage events — since his eighth-grade year at Frink-Chambers, qualifying for the 2013 2A State Track & Field Championship and placing 10th in the 100 in May.
The meet starts July 6. Down Under Sports likely notifies its athletes so far in advance because it costs $4,400 to participate, including a $300 non-refundable deposit.
With such a high price, Woods will in all likelihood have travel to Australia by himself. Woods said the cost is worth it because it’ll make it easier to earn a track scholarship next year.
“I would definitely play football in college,” Woods said, but he’d prefer to earn a track scholarship.
Woods added, “I’ve been playing sports since I was little.”
To help pay his way to Australia, Woods has already begun seeking sponsorship from local businesses. Anyone who donates will receive a certificate of appreciation and be entered into a drawing for either two trips to Australia or a five-day cruise.
Along with going to local businesses, Chase is also selling T-shirts for $20. Those interested in sponsoring Woods or buying a shirt can call his mother, Brandy Woods, at 918-916-3429.
Chase Woods said he plans to approach Savanna Public Schools about sponsoring him as well.
“It would give them a lot of recognition, and I think it would give people like a boost of confidence,” Woods said. “I’m just happy to represent my school, country and state.”
Each tournament package also comes with an additional three-day trip to Hawaii, though that costs approximately $700 more. Woods said if he can raise the extra $700, he’ll definitely go to Hawaii.
In the meantime, Woods spends his afternoons playing running back and defensive back for Savanna’s football teams, then spending time after each practice running uphill to build strength and explosiveness in his lower legs. Once the new track opens at Hook Eales Stadium in McAlester, Woods said he’ll spend some time there as well.
“There are not really a lot of places around McAlester to really practice,” Woods said. “It’s easier to try to run uphill to try to gain more push power. That’s what I did last year for track, and I felt like I was getting faster, and I’ve been (improving) my times.”
Woods said he currently runs the 100 in 11.1 seconds, the 200 in 23.6 and the 400 in 53.9.
Along with track & field, Down Under Sports will also hold international competitions in basketball, cross country, football, golf, volleyball and wrestling. The competitions will begin with football and wrestling on June 28 and will conclude with the final day of the volleyball tournament on July 22.
The U.S. won the track & field competition in 2013.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.