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Keita Cline shared some wisdom with A.J. Tittle at a recent ERAA track practice. Cline participated in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and was a five-time Big Ten champion for the University of Minnesota.

Former Olympians steering ERAA track program

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One would think coaches with resumes like those of Coralea and Keita Cline should have no trouble getting their points across to young athletes.

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It always helps when you can start a sentence by saying, "Well, when I was in the Olympics, I..."

The Clines, who were both standout track and field athletes at the University of Minnesota and who each qualified for the Olympics for the British Virgin Islands, are in the midst of their first season heading the East Ridge Athletic Association track and field program -- training area youth in the sport they truly love.

"We want to develop a love for track like we have," Coralea Cline said. "We want to give an opportunity to compete. It's just an opportunity to help kids develop another sport and to build on other sports they're in through track and help them reach their goals."

The Clines live in Woodbury, inside the current East Ridge High School boundary. Their three boys -- Jayden, 14, Kjetil, 11, and Gabriel, 3, are on track to attend East Ridge.

The ERAA track and field program isn't just for kids who will be attending East Ridge, however, it is open to all athletes. The Woodbury Athletic Association also has a track and field program, but the Cottage Grove Athletic Association does not.

"We're looking for anyone who wants to enhance themselves at pretty much any age," Keita Cline said. "We thought it was a good opportunity to get more track in the community. We have three tracks available in this area at Park, Woodbury and at East Ridge and two programs that have been strong already in Park and Woodbury. We just want to promote the sport. We're very excited about being able to do that."

Tami Rein, ERAA President, said she is hoping kids from all over the area will join the program.

"It's a huge opportunity," Rein said. "It's open to everybody. I'm hoping kids from all over the district will get involved. We're really hoping to reach out to everybody."

Coralea Cline, who was born and raised in Canada, competed for the University of Minnesota women's track team in the mid-1990s. She is second on Minnesota's all-time high jump list indoors and third outdoor, in each case with a jump of 5 feet, 8 inches and has a personal best of clearing 6-2. Coralea Cline placed second in the high jump at the Pan American Games in 1989. Keita Cline won five Big Ten championships with the Gophers and was a two-time All-American as a long and triple jumper from 1991 to 1995. Keita competed in the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and in Sydney in 2000. In Atlanta, Keita participated in the long jump and ran in the 400-meter relay. In Sydney in 2000, he competed in the 200-meter run, as he suffered a knee injury a year prior to the games and couldn't compete in the jumping events. Coralea also was hindered by an injury surrounding the Olympics. She had to pull out of the qualifying round at the 1996 games with a rib injury.

However, each have very fond memories of the games.

"It was a great experience," Keita Cline said. "I didn't make it to the finals or anything, but it was a lot of fun."

Coralea and Keita both started competing in track at a young age. Coralea was 9 and Keita was 12. Because they began at a young age, they felt they had an understanding of competing in track and field as a child. Also, they felt their level of expertise may be at a higher level than some others and are excited to have an opportunity to pass that knowledge along.

"If these kids want to make it to the Olympics or to World Juniors we want to do everything we can to support that," Coralea said. "But, for some it's just the love of running or jumping and we want to help them improve on that."

Woodbury's Neal Johnson has his 11-year old son Alexander Johnson taking part in the ERAA track and field program this summer. Neal Johnson said it was his son's idea to try track and field this summer instead of baseball.

"He's having a good time and, since he's having a good time, I'm having a good time," Neal Johnson said. "For us, we're going to East Ridge. Woodbury has a great track program, but we're going to East Ridge and we've known the Clines for years and years and we're looking forward to doing this with East Ridge."

Johnson said Alexander also plays football and competes in Tae Kwan Do.

"The track skills help those other sports, they overlap," Neal Johnson said. "But, I want him to do this for its own merits, not just to do it to get ready for something else."

Keita Cline believes track can provide a basis for pretty much every sport.

"All sports teach kids how to compete and how to win," Keita Cline said. "This gives kids a chance to compete in track in the summer and to start working from a point where they can get a chance to be very competitive at each level."

For more on the ERAA track and field program visit www.eraamn.com/page/show/60395-eraa-track-and-field

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