■ By Kyle Selby / Reporter
Fourth-grader Keyera Cameron from Ramona Elementary School headed to Orlando, Florida this past weekend to compete in the NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick National Finals, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports as part of Pro Bowl Week. She placed an amazing second in her age group.
Nationals were held on Friday, Jan. 27, where Cameron represented the San Diego Chargers; she was one of 40 young participants competing from across the United States. Cameron and her mother received a complimentary stay at Walt Disney World Resort with passes to the theme park, along with an all-expenses paid trip.
NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick is managed by USA Football, and is one of the nation’s largest grassroots sports skills and competitions. The top boy and girl finisher in each of five age divisions (6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15) start at the school level, measuring each athlete’s distance for one punt, one pass, and one place kick. Those placers advanced to the sectional round in Beaumont, and on Dec. 4, Keyera advanced even further to compete at the team championship at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. There, she took first place for girls 8 to 9 years old. Last year, she advanced to nationals in Seattle, and finished in third place.
This year, she landed second-place in the female ages 8-9 division. Cameron placed with a 79.8 ft punt, a 66.11 ft pass, and a 61.3 ft kick, generating a total score of 207.10 points.
“I’m just really extremely proud of Keyera,” said Cameron’s coach, Mark Gruntz at last week’s Hemet City Council meeting. There, the City Council awarded Cameron a certificate of appreciation and a pin adorned with the City’s seal before she made the trip. “She is ranked number one in the entire nation right now…She’s just amazing and deserves all of the credit,” added Gruntz.
Forty children from 19 states between the ages of 6 and 15 qualified as finalists for the Punt, Pass, and Kick National Championships this year. Each athlete advances to the national finals through local, sectional and team championship competitions throughout the NFL season. At the National Finals in Orlando, Cameron and other competitors from each age division launched two punts, two passes, and two kicks, basing their scores on distance and accuracy (per foot). The national champion was picked based on the top score in each group.
“I’m proud of her,” gleamed Maria Flores, Cameron’s mother. “We practice every day, as much as we can. Sometimes she gives me a hard time, but she does it,” she added, laughingly.