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Local girls attract national attention at AAU Olympics

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Submitted photo – Mae and Tae Wolford

By Ray Hamill — The future appears very bright for two young local athletes, who are fast gaining national attention in track and field.

Twin sisters Tae and Mae Wolford of Arcata recently traveled to North Carolina to compete at the AAU Junior Olympics for the first time, and each impressed enough to attract the attention of some top coaches in the sport.

“I had five (different) trainers who wanted me to move to a different state so they can train them,” the twins’ mother Viola Wolford said.

Tae capped a breakout season in the sport by placing 11th in the nation in the 80 meter hurdles in the 11-year-old age group, while sister Mae finished 12th in the long jump.

If that wasn’t impressive enough on its own, this is the first year either sister has ever competed in track and field, and the trip to North Carolina was just the second time ever Tae ran in a hurdles event.

They also competed in triple-digit weather.

Plenty of promise

The Arcata twins have shown plenty of promise athletically in other sports, playing youth football in each of the past three seasons and wrestling since they were five-years-old, winning three state titles each in the latter.

But however much they may have impressed in the other sports, each of them appears to have taken to track and field on a whole different level.

“They love it,” Viola said. “They can’t wait till next year so they can really have a go at it. Really I took them there for the experience as opposed to winning, to see if it was something they wanted to do.”

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After they placed first locally in three events each this past spring season, the twins’ mother was told of an AAU Junior Olympic qualifying event in Oakdale and decided to take the girls down to see how it would go.

“Somebody told me about it and I checked it out,” Viola said. “On a whim we went down to Oakdale and they did well, and then I said, ‘I guess we’re going to North Carolina.’”

The Pacific Union sixth graders took home a combined three firsts, two seconds and a third in their six events in the 11-year-old division at Oakdale,

Mae placed first in both the long jump and 100 meters and was second in the 200 meters, while Tae was first in the 80 meter hurdles, second in the long jump and third in the 100 meters.

Viola, who was born and raised in Humboldt County, is currently looking for a track and field coach to train the girls, and is hoping their success will lead to opportunities for other local athletes.

“I’m really looking for somebody who can invest their time in them,” she said. “I’m hoping we can build something in Humboldt County locally and that more kids can go to the AAU qualifying.”

Enjoying the moment

The girls themselves appear to be taking it all in their stride, and are enjoying the moment.

And each has an appetite to get better, something Viola has seen from them in particular on the wrestling mats, where the twins are coached by local MMA fighter Cass Bell.

“They are true athletes who excel in everything they do,” Bell said.

They also have become accustomed to winning.

“They don’t lose very much, but when they lose they learn and that’s what losing means to them,” she said. “They come back and ask Cass ‘what did I do wrong?’ ‘What can I do better?’”

That willingness to learn extends beyond sports.

“They’re amazing student athletes,” Viola said. “They don’t just shine when it comes to being an athlete, they shine academically.”

The Wolford twins have a gofundme page to help offset the cost of the trip to North Carolina.

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