Niwot's Coach Mo building well-rounded athletes through REAL Training


Aidan Jiang

REAL Training director and Niwot High School track and field Head Coach Maurice Henriques looks on during the 2023 track and field state championships.

Clocking the fastest times is far from the ultimate goal at REAL Training.

Under longtime director and founder Maurice Henriques, the track and field club's primary focus is helping young athletes develop character and a work ethic that can be used throughout life.

Henriques, often referred to as "Coach Mo," is using this summer to instill those values into his REAL athletes, who hail from high schools across the Front Range, including Niwot. "REAL" is an acronym for Responsibility, Education, Athletics and Leadership.

The longtime Niwot track and field head coach has been particularly impressed with Tavon Underwood, a recent Mead High School graduate who was named the 2022-23 Gatorade Colorado Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Henriques went as far to compare Underwood's "no-nonsense" attitude to Elise Cranny, who ran under Coach Mo at Niwot High School before working her way up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

"If you really want to be on that type of level, you have to make a sacrifice," Henriques said. "I'd say kids and parents and sometimes coaches don't realize that when you see somebody do that, you got to really just point it out so people can see it."

The hope is that Underwood's approach to running can rub off on other REAL athletes this summer during a time in which development is often valued over results.

Concurrently, Henriques recognizes the importance of teaching "balance" to his athletes as they either compete or train nearly year-round. Some would likely be surprised to know that Henriques schedules frequent days off during the spring high school season, allowing his Niwot runners to stay fresh throughout the high school schedule. That same mentality carries over to REAL with Henriques allowing his runners to skip training sessions when necessary.

Although Henriques, a former football player and track athlete at CU, has old school blood that appreciates the Underwoods and Crannys of the world, he remains adaptable with his coaching methods.

Niwot High runners who are competing this summer with REAL include the now-graduated Madison Shults and Jeremy Gillett, Gavin Engtrakul, Kendall Madine, Kye Toothaker and Kingston Staton, among others. In June, those first five runners mentioned competed at the 2023 Nike Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Oregon, with Shults taking first in the girls' 800-meter.

REAL, including Staton and Niwot senior Julia Rudolph, also made an appearance at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals at the historic Franklin Field in Philadelphia from June 15-18.

"They really loved the atmosphere, the energy," Henriques said of the trip to Philly. "The announcers were like DJs. It was just set up pretty good and they did a lot of cool things for the athletes."

Staton ran the traditional 200 and 400-meter races and also placed 15th in the 400-meter hurdles. Rudolph appeared in the 400 and 800-meter races.

Henriques said that the remainder of July will consist mostly of conditioning and skills work. He also has a group heading to the AAU Junior Olympic Games at Drake University later this month.


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