WILLIAMSBURG — 11-year-old Gunner Hammett of Williamsburg is smashing records on the track and was recently invited to compete at the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
Hammett, an unaffiliated athlete, competes under the tutelage of his dad, Clint. Together, the two take to different tracks around the area and practice three times a week.
After getting the nod to compete at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, Gunner was ecstatic.
“I was excited to run against really good competition and try to break national records. I wasn’t nervous, but filled with excitement,” Gunner said.
During the AAU Games, Gunner competed in the 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, and 800-meter run. In the 800-meter run, Gunner broke the national record in his age group with a finishing time of 2:07:45. In the 400-meter, Gunner broke the national record in the semifinals with a time of 55:35, and during finals broke his own record again with a finishing time of 54:53.
Gunner returned home to Williamsburg with three gold medals.
“It feels really good. For me, at the Junior Olympics, you compete against really good athletes. For me to be the one who gets to bring home three gold medals, it’s really touching and really nice,” Gunner said.
In June, Gunner competed at the New Balance Nationals in Philadelphia. While there, he smashed the world record for his age group in the 800-meter run with a finishing time of 2:09. At New Balance Nationals, Gunner was the only elementary school-aged competitor.
According to Clint, Gunner is extremely self-motivated.
“When Gunner talks about being self-motivated, he really is. Being an unaffiliated athlete, he doesn’t run for a team. He doesn’t have anyone to challenge at practice, it’s literally just me, him, and the clock,” Clint said.
Clint and Gunner have a tradition before every race. Gunner and his father shake hands and exchange the words ‘good luck and I love you.’
“At that point, the coaching is done. It’s just ‘good luck and I love you.’ That way he knows good, bad, or indifferent, I’m here for him throughout this,” Clint said.
A lot of this was believed to be impossible for young Gunner. From birth until the age of three, Gunner was severely asthmatic, almost always using a nebulizer. Doctors were unsure of how Gunner’s life would be affected.
To come as far as he has, Gunner is extremely proud of himself.
“If you believe in yourself every day that you step on the track, it will eventually happen for you,” Gunner said. “Through hard work and faith, anything is possible,” Clint said.
While he would not be age eligible to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, Gunner has his eye on the 2028 Olympic Games, set to be held in Los Angeles.
“One of my goals that I want to hit is to compete at the Olympics and represent my country,” Gunner said.
At the age of 11, Gunner has some special advice for his peers about competing at an elite level.
“It all starts in practice. During practice in whatever you do, I want you to be self-motivated and self-driven. Don’t take any reps or plays off. That will carry into any situation on or off the field,” Gunner said.
Gunner and his family have launched an Instagram account where everyone can keep up with his accomplishments. Follow him here.