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'Charlotte Flights' track and field club making a difference on and off the track

With positive role models from the volunteers of Charlotte Flights, the hope is to keep Charlotte area youth in the right lane while producing All-American runners.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Flights, a track and field club, started in 1991 with a couple of dozen children. Now, they have grown to over 200 kids participating in the program.

The club is a way to keep youth in the Charlotte area engaged.

"The original mission of the club set forth by the founder and original head coach Anthony James was to give more kids a positive outlet through track and field," current head coach Nigel Orr said.

By partnering with some local organizations, the club was able to open its arms to anyone who wanted to run. Charlotte Flights also aims to keep membership fees affordable to make the club more accessible to all.  

"Make it an all-comers club," Orr said. "Try to make it cheap enough that you know so that's not a barrier to entry, and focus on growth with kids."

Orr knows what these kids are going through because he used to be in their shoes.

He said his parents got him involved to keep him on the straight and narrow. 

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"How do I keep these kids off these streets and out of trouble? The Flights are one way we did that," Orr said. "Virtually all summer, you know, we’re going to track practice, we're going to track meets. We are trying to do something positive rather than running around doing, getting into whatever you can get into when you’re out there and unattended."

With positive role models from the volunteers of Charlotte Flights, the hope is to keep Charlotte area youth in the right lane while producing All-American runners.

"Some of them will be talented enough that they really take to the training and take off and become national champions and all that kind of stuff," Orr said. "But the real mission is [that] any kid that comes out there, for them to be able to document their improvement. And for a lot of these kids, if they don’t have positive mentorship, positive leadership, what they get from the coaches and the board at the track meets -- that might be the closest thing they get to someone holding them accountable." 

He said that can serve as inspiration for the kids to make goals, work hard, and persevere.