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Talent on the track takes young Islander to the Junior Olympics
At 14 years old, Abigail Kim has already blown coaches away with her performance in track and field. Urged by her coaches, the Vashon teen is competing this week at the Junior Olympics in Houston.
On Monday Abigail won her first heat and made it to the semi-finals in the 100-meter dash, which she finished in 12.9 seconds. She will also compete in the 200-meter dash and the long jump at the Junior Olympics, an annual event put on by the Amateur Athletic Union.
“It’s a big achievement,” said Sue Kim, Abigail’s mother. “Even if she didn’t place at all, it will still be a tremendous achievement.”
Reached at home last week, Abigail was excited to go to the event and asked that her mom speak on her behalf.
From the time Abigail was little, Sue said, was been clear to everyone that she is fast. She won her first Turkey Trot on Vashon as an elementary schooler, Sue said.
“She didn’t want to beat the boys because she thought they’d be mad at her,” she said with a laugh.
Abigail, who graduated from McMurray Middle School in June, easily won all four of her events at the middle school’s league championships last spring.
Todd Pearson, a volunteer coach at McMurray, said that Abigail was somewhat out of her league competing against fellow middle schoolers. The same performances at the high school state championships, he noted, likely would have placed her in the top three in those events.
“It was clear to me that she had the ability to be very, very good,” Pearson said in an email.
Pearson also said it was clear that Abigail needed coaching beyond what she could get on Vashon.
“It’s obvious that she’s really gifted,” Pearson said. “We needed to get her to a coach who can really show her what to do to get to the next level.”
Abigail, who moved to Vashon with her family when she was 6, is extremely muscular and is built like a runner, Pearson said. The fact that she was running so fast without the help of an experienced coach who could improve her form, he added, was also a testament to her natural talent.
“There was enormous room for improvement in her performances, and yet she was easily beating the competition using less-than-stellar technique,” he said.
With encouragement from Pearson and middle school coach Marilyn Oswald, Abigail began training about a month ago with Mike Cunliffe, a Seattle running coach who works with elite runners and was impressed with Abigail’s times.
With hard work and some improvements to her running form, Abigail qualified to compete at the Junior Olympics in all three events she tried for. There, Pearson said, she’ll be competing against some young athletes who have had high-level coaching for years.
“Abbie will come into that meet at a significant disadvantage on that score, but I am confident she’ll do very well in spite of it,” he said.
Sue said that while Abigail’s coaches anticipate she could go far in the world of competitive track and field, she and her husband Jin Kim are being careful not to put too much pressure on the young girl. Abigail also enjoys soccer and plays on an elite team in Seattle, and her parents want her to feel free to pursue whatever sport she chooses, Sue said.
“She’s built to be an athlete, and she needs to move to survive,” she said. “We want to keep her life in balance, too, and make sure she stays involved in other things as well.”
For more on the Junior Olympics, or to see track and field events streamed live, see www.aautv.org.