The St. Charles Striders, a summer track team known to produce national champs such as Jaii Scott, long jump; Chris Richards, long jump, triple jump, 100 and 200 meters; Traun Smith, triple jump; and Jarvis Harris, triple jump.These champions have become the life force behind the program. Part of that life force is Nat Henry and Ulysses Frontha, who agreed over 10 years ago to a commitment that would allow aspiring athletes to nurture and develop their talents. Both coaches are faculty members of Destreshan High School and have been coaching for over thirty years.
“I have always volunteered my summer to working with the track team and felt so that the kids in the community are able to do something constructive and organized in the summer,” said Coach Frontha. “Track and field is a pure sport,” said Frontha, “Every time you hit the track you are running against yourself.” “If you want to blame someone for not doing well, just look in the mirror.”
“We want to refine what these young athletes are already doing well,” said Coach Henry. “The program has grown over the years,” said Henry, adding, “We started with five kids and now we have over sixty. We are looking for young coaches to take our place, but we want to make sure the program stays strong and keeps growing.”
The Striders have five dedicated people who work along side of head coaches Frontha and Henry with these athletes four days a week for almost two hours. Tedrick Henry, Renee Zeringue, Gary Sampson, Cardell Brown, and Norman Singleton have all volunteered their time to ensure that this much needed program not only works but works well. During practice they help prepare these young dreamers to develop and refine skills both on the track and the field. The practice runs like a well-oiled machine. Each group of athletes in every corner of the field are busy running sprints, stretching, jumping and trying hard each time to beat their personal best.
The ages of these athletes range from six to eighteen. LaDonna Guidry, the youngest team member, runs the 100 meter dash, the 400 meter dash and participates in the long jump. At age six she has dreams at being the best in her events. “I like running, its my favorite thing to do and I am good at it,” said LaDonna Guidry.
Each year the Striders take at least thirty to 40 qualifiers to the AAU Nationals. This year the team will travel to Norfork, Virginia on July 29 in hopes of bringing home more national champions. “Where ever we go, people know the St. Charles Striders, they know we have a good program,” said Coach Frontha. “Our program is strickly for the kids.”
“Many programs charge an extraordinary fee just to join the team. Not to mention they want just the elite athletes,” added Coach Henry. “We take anybody that wants to run. We take their talent and refine it and we always come out the best.” said Coach Frontha. “We have one of the better programs,” said Coach Frontha.
Both coaches took a walk down memory lane when all they had was an old van and Cutless Supreme in which to transport their runners all over the state to compete. “We had 15 at one time in the van,” reflects Coach Henry. “And Ed Reed (NFL Football star) road in the back of the Cutless Supreme,” said Coach Frontha. “We have had the opportunity to help alot of young athletics because they come to us in the summer from different parishes and both sides of the river,” said Coach Frontha.
While the recreation department provides some financial support to the team, Sharon Grow and Roy Harris, volunteer their time to run concessions at the bridge park in the summer to supplement finances. The parents are very supportive and help in many ways to make sure that the day to day needs of the team are met. The team is still in need and welcomes community support. The additional support would allow the program to continue to provide the necessary provisions to produce national champs.