It took just a couple of races for Walden Grove freshman Jordan Albertie to start turning heads.
The 14-year-old sprinter won three of his four races at the 2014 Arizona Junior Olympic meet in June, breaking a 16-year-old record in the 200 meters with a 23.04.
That’s about a half-second off his dad’s best time of 22.53 — posted at the 1983 world championships in Helsinki. You also have to note that the Arizona meet was Jordan’s first organized track competition.
His dad, John Albertie, said his son’s debut came as a surprise given his lack of preparation.
“He ran a great time and broke the state Olympic junior time record in his age group in his first time out there,” John said.
Jordan’s success sent him to the 2014 USATF National Junior Olympics in July, where he placed fifth with a 23.33 in the 200 meter, 0.75 off the first-place mark.
New on the track
Jordan began running with the Arizona Titans track club this summer, and was green when he competed in the Arizona Junior Olympics.
Even John, who competed internationally for the island nation of St. Lucia in the 1980s, didn’t expect much from his son at the state meet. He thought they’d chalk it up to a learning experience.
“When we went up to Phoenix for the state meet I was amazed at the sheer size of everything,” John said. “There were about 30 clubs there and it was just a huge setting… It was like a whole world opened up for us, as we had only been training for two weeks, so we figured it’d be a good measuring stick for him, and that we’d train harder for next year.”
Derrick Thompson, whose daughter Sakovia ran with Jordan at Anza Trail School and with the Titans, wasn’t surprised at the record 200 meter time.
“Basically, I discovered him at a middle school meet at Anza Trail,” he said. “He ran an 11.4 or 11.5 hand time, so I figured that this kid had elite athletic ability. We got him in May, and he was basically coming off the street, so for him to break records like this is incredible.”
Jordan calls his record 200-meter run memorable.
“People were in front of me for a bit on the curve, and then we hit the straightaway and no one was really there anymore, and I remembering being like, ‘This is weird,’” he said. “I passed the line and then everyone else finished, and I got up and went over to where they showed the finishing times and found out I had won.”
Jordan hopes eventually to qualify for the U.S. Track and Field Championships and maybe go all the way to the Olympics. Goals for the near future are closer to home.
“For the time being, I plan on continuing to run both with the Titans and Walden Grove until the high school season starts,” Jordan said. “Once the Walden Grove season starts this spring, I’ll solely focus on running high school track, where I hope to cut my 100, 200 and 400 meter times by at least a few seconds.”
John, meanwhile, is preparing his son to run against older competitors by aiming for times posted at the state championships last year, which were 21.05 in the 200 meters, and 51.50 in the 400 meters.
He said Jordan’s training will increase drastically this winter so he can get a leg up on the competition.
“The hard work’s really going to start after football, because Jordan’s going to have to train a lot harder to get where he wants to go,” he said. “I can’t teach instincts, but I think if I can get him prepared to the best of my abilities then we can get where we want to go.”
The goal for John is to get him conditioned to run everything.
“I practiced and trained to run each event, and I’d puke and nearly pass out at practice,” he said. “But you have to practice as hard as possible to get where [Jordan] wants to be. The problem with his generation is that they want to quit as soon as things get tough, which is where you really start when training.”
Like father, like son
John Albertie was also a top sprinter when he was Jordan’s age. The St. Lucia native qualified for the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, where he ran his personal best 10.90 in the 100 meters.
Yet he said he let his kids find their way to track and field.
“I had my day, but I didn’t want to push my kids into my interests,” John said. “My wife was like, ‘You’ve got to push him, you’ve got to pull him into track.’ But in my opinion there’s only one way I know how to do things, and I think of it as the right way.”
Jordan, meanwhile, said it’s entertaining to see his father at track events.
“The first race I ran was the 200, and I was pretty relaxed,” Jordan said. “And before the race, he came up and said, ‘Are you nervous?’ and I said, ‘No.’ It’s funny, but he’s always been more nervous than me before every one of my meets.”
Helping at home
John said he wants to give back to the Sahuarita sprinting community.
“We’ve talked with others about trying to start a Sahuarita track club,” John said. “There used to be one, so hopefully that’ll happen here shortly. We have two high schools, so if you get a club together then you can help runners at both schools train, which I think would help better our community.”
The former All-American sprinter at South Dakota State said the proposed track club would boost the success of both high school programs.
He said his main role as Jordan’s father and coach is to guard him from being overwhelmed by media hype.
“The advantage for us is that I have experience dealing with the press,” John said. “I told him I’m not in this for me, as I’ve already had my fun with the sport. I think I might have been blessed with my skill-set, not for me, but to help my kids navigate the sport and keep the pressure off of them.”
Jordan said his focus is solely on bettering himself on the track.
“My goal as a runner is to try and do better than I did last year,” he said. “I really don’t listen to what others say about me, and focus solely on doing what it takes to continue to grow as an athlete.”