He’s a quiet kid with the speed of a cheetah. Michael Grannum, 8, a third-grader from Brookside Elementary School in Baldwin, is one of the fastest kids his age in the country.
Michael runs the 55-meter dash in 8.30 seconds. Standing with his teammates before practice last Friday, he proudly displayed the second-place medal he earned at the New York Road Runners Millrose Games on Feb. 3.
“I beat my personal time,” Michael said. “I was running at 8.44 seconds before the race, but the day of the race I broke my own record. It was a good feeling.”
Grannum isn’t the only nationally ranked runner from Long Island. In fact, the Explosion Track Club, a nonprofit Nassau County track and field youth organization, produces some of the top runners in the nation.
At the Hershey National Youth Indoor Championships on Staten Island March 9-11, Michael’s sister, Baldwin Middle School sixth-grader Renelle Grannum, 12, and her teammates Jordyn Babb, Jenesis Bristol and Logan Daley, finished third in the 11/12 girls’ 4 x 400 relay. “We were all going crazy,” Renelle said. “I couldn’t believe we had [placed] but we did. It was so cool.”
Explosion Track got its start three years ago, when track and field coaches Hugh Daley, from Hempstead; Robert James, from Freeport; and several other coaches and parents decided to form a track club for students from every part of the county. According to Daley, they were inspired by watching children who were passionate about track and field.
Moving into the spring season, the self-funded club is actively preparing for its next meets.
Rochelle Grannum, Michael and Renelle’s mother and one of the club’s co-founders, recalled how Explosion came about. She and a group of parents originally had their kids competing for another local track team, which Grannum didn’t want to mention by name. They were unsatisfied with the team’s organization and performance, and decided to leave. This left them with a large problem, however: What were they going to do with their kids, who had grown to love track?
“So a bunch of parents got together, knowing nothing about running an organization, and decided, we’re going to get it done,” Grannum recounted. “And that’s how we started Explosion Track Club, August 2015.”
After two injuries during the winter season, Andrew Decoteau, 15, a sophomore at Baldwin High School, placed sixth in the 15/16 boys’ 55-meter dash at the nationals, in what he called his “comeback.” Determined to get back on the field, Andrew said he spent the winter months rehabilitating and preparing for the Hershey competition.
“It was my moment,” he said. “I was so happy that I placed after competing for the first time since my injuries.”
Grannum said that one of the things that set Explosion apart is the emphasis on parental involvement. “When you, as a parent, put your child in a sport, you want to be able to see growth,” she said. You want to be able to have communication with coaches, and one thing that we stress is [an] open-door policy. If there’s something that we may not be doing right, we welcome feedback.”
This has resonated with many parents. “The organization is unique in the sense that they’re very encouraging to the young athletes,” said Phillip Bristol, Jenesis Bristol’s father. “They make it a point to incorporate parental involvement for those who can help out, and it’s amazing to see. Not every parent is able to be as involved as others, but the way you see some of these parents rally behind the children and just supporting them every step of the way, from the practice, to travel, to the actual events that they’re participating in. You see the love that not just the coaches have, but that parents have for other kids.”
The club focuses on more than just the kids’ athletic success. “Something else that’s worth praising is the fact that they acknowledge the kids for their academic success as well,” said Bristol. “It’s not just how they’re performing on the field. You have kids that are honor roll students, you have presidential award winners, and a lot of solid student-athletes. They award them for those types of things as well. It keeps them motivated; it keeps them competitive. What they’re learning in this club is beyond the track field.”
“In my personal opinion it’s one of the best teams, if not the best team, on Long Island,” said Marcus Johnson, the father of one of the runners. “The reason I say that is because it’s family-oriented. The coaches really know what they’re doing, and they really take their time with the kids to make sure they reach their goals.”