Divine Movement track club competing at nationals

From left: Aiden Albertson, Braeden Elliott, Ty McSwain, coach James McSwain, James “Junior” McSwain and Liz Ghartey are all part of the Divine Movement track club that competed in Sacramento this week at the USA Track & Field National Junior Olympics. (Dave Minton/Tribune Staff)

James and Tonisha McSwain wanted to make an impact on the lives of the youth, teens and young adults eight years ago when they founded Divine Movement.

Their mission was simple: help the individuals build goals and achieve them by providing the tools and mentorship needed for them to be successful in life. They quickly began helping a large group of individuals and saw them succeed.

Two years ago, they extended their work into athletics. James, a former track star for Washington State University, aimed to provide an outlet for athletes to compete at a high level in the club track & field scene, which is rapidly growing in Arizona. Once again, their work paid off.

Divine Movement Club Track, which is based out of Queen Creek and Gilbert, sent five athletes varying in age to Sacramento, Calif. this week to compete in the USA Track & Field National Junior Olympics. A monumental feat for a program still in its infant stages.

“It’s an honor to be able to coach them,” said James, who also coaches track at Williams Field. “It takes a lot of hard work. Especially out here in this weather. I do ask a lot of them so they can continue to improve and be at this point. That’s why they are where they are.”

To qualify for nationals, Divine Movement first had to make a splash at regionals in El Paso, Texas earlier this month. There, the team competed alongside other clubs from Arizona, including Ahwatukee-based AZ Speed, which is also a new club in just its first season competing.

James said Arizona as a whole dominated in El Paso, with several local athletes from around the state and Valley qualifying to move on to Sacramento.

Liz Ghartey, the oldest of the group who competes in the 17 to 18-year-old group, qualified after placing first in discus and third in shot put. She also has a twin brother on the team but he was held out of regionals due to an injury.

Throwing events are still relatively new for Ghartey. She began competing in sixth grade but took a two-year hiatus due to COVID. She then joined Divine Movement.

A junior at Basis Mesa who will graduate from high school early to pursue a computer engineering degree, she hasn’t had many athletic opportunities. So, she’s thankful for the McSwains and Divine Movement for giving her an outlet to compete at a high level.

“I really appreciate this club for giving me the athletic opportunity that I haven’t been able to have,” Ghartey said. “I think this is a big opportunity. I was really excited to train for it and compete. I like the fact that I can prove my strength. I think it breaks a lot of stereotypes.”

Along with Ghartey, Aiden Albertson took first in the high jump and fourth in long jump for the 9 to 10-year-old age group. Braeden Elliott, who is in the 11 to 12-year-old group, placed fifth in long jump.

Both qualified for nationals.

Ty McSwain, one of eight children the James and Tonisha have together, placed second in high jump, second in the 400-meter run and fourth in the long jump. He qualified for nationals in every event.

Ty is preparing to enter his freshman year of high school where he will compete for Williams Field. It’s an opportunity he is excited for as he aims to beat some of his father’s personal best times from when he competed.

“He knows that we can always do better,” Ty said of James. “He pushed us to go the extra mile in order to be better. I’m going to try to beat some of his records. It’ll take a lot of practice. We worked hard to get (to Nationals). I think it’s going to be fun.”

Junior, who is entering his junior year at Williams Field, placed fifth in the 100-meter dash in El Paso to qualify for Sacramento. James said Junior, as of right now, has the best opportunity to challenge his times from when he competed.

Overall, Junior is looking forward to the opportunity to compete in the National Junior Olympics. It’s something he sees as unique. Many of his peers have expressed their excitement for him, too.

Now, he just has to go out there and compete at a high level.

“This is a big opportunity,” Junior said. “It gives me something to prove. My dad is a lot to live up to. He has a lot of records that I am looking to break. I want to go to the same college he did.”

No matter what transpired during the near week-long event that wrapped up Sunday, James remains proud of what his athletes were able to accomplish in a short amount of time.

He has seen growth in every one of them as the season has progressed and is thankful he has the opportunity to coach them and represent the East Valley at a high level.

“I’m so excited, I’m so happy to be able to be out here this late in the season,” James said. “It’s been a long season. Honestly, that is what is continuing to help me put a smile on my face. Just knowing they have another opportunity to compete and continue to improve. That’s what it is all about.”

Following Nationals, Divine Movement will have a break before gearing up again for a new season. The club is seeking new athletes to join for next season or donations as a non-profit 501©3 organization.

For more information, visit divinemove.org or email divinemoveorg@outlook.com.