On December 8, three Washougal student runners will join close to 3,000 youth athletes in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championship. Washougal High School Junior, Megan Anderson, WHS Sophomore, Karina Miller, and Canyon Creek Middle School 6th grader, Gabriel Dinnel qualified in their age divisions after successful meets in Seattle and Spokane.
“Going to nationals is going to be exciting!” said Anderson. “We have worked really hard so it will be rewarding to see that all this work has paid off.”
“I think it will be really challenging,” said Dinnel. “There will be people from all over the country there competing!”
So what inspires these young runners? For each of them it is about doing their best, getting a personal record by beating a previous run time. “My mom also inspires me. She is a great cross country and track runner,” said Miller. “And I get inspiration by trying to be a great athlete to represent my school and town.” Dinnel is also inspired by his family. His father competes in triathlons and he has an aunt who ran in the Boston Marathon.
The runners received an early taste of competitive running in the Washougal Schools Foundation Student Stride for Education. The Stride, entering its tenth year, is a 5K fun run also offers student-length heats. More than 600 runners attend the annual event at WHS in mid-May. “Our family is grateful to the Foundation for this great event,” said Carol Dinnel. “We acknowledge how it has helped Gabriel to realize his running ability and encouraged him to run at a competitive level.” In fact, Dinnel placed first at The Stride in his age group from kindergarten through 5th grade. Anderson and Miller said they were also among the top girl finishers when they ran in The Stride. The two high schoolers now participate as volunteer “rabbits,” running along with the younger students to provide encouragement and security.
Lately, the students have been putting many miles on their running shoes as they train for the national meet. Anderson and Miller were teammates on the WHS Cross Country team that won the Greater St. Helens League Championship this season. They still train together often, adding in some cross training. “We work on strengthening our bodies and gaining muscle,” Anderson explained. Dinnel trains by playing soccer, running with his parents and is also a part of a running club in Portland.
Cross country or any distance running takes a strong mind set. “I think about pace,” said Miller. “And if I see a person up ahead I tell myself I can pass that person. I set goals and challenges for myself.” Anderson also likes to pick out runners she wants to pass but admits she goes faster when she is thinking about anything but running. For Dinnel it is about focus. “I just think about that finish line and about doing my best.” The three runners are confident and focused as they prepare to head to New Mexico. “I feel good. I’m ready,” assures Miller.