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Vashon teen has impressive showing at Junior Olympics
Islander Abigail Kim, a young track and field athlete who has wowed crowds at local and regional track meets, stood out this month on the national track scene at the Junior Olympic Games.
Abigail, 14, placed in the top 10 in two of the three events she entered at the annual event and outshone athletes with years more of elite coaching.
Abigail’s father, Jin Kim, said there were around 10,000 young athletes at the Junior Olympics, which took place in Houston earlier this month. Abigail competed in three events — the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and the long jump — against about 80 other 14-year-old girls each.
“I’m sure it must have been intimidating to step into that kind of arena and not know how you stack up against kids from the whole country,” Jin said. “I think she didn’t let it phase her and really stepped up to the challenge.”
Todd Pearson, a volunteer track coach at McMurray Middle School who recently encouraged Abigail to seek a higher level of coaching, called her performance at the Junior Olympics amazing.
In the long jump event, Abigail placed seventh and earned a medal with a jump of 17 feet, 6 inches, a distance that was also a new personal record. Abigail had a couple of longer jumps at the competition, but unfortunately scratched them. Had she not scratched the longer jumps, Pearson said, she could have easily taken second place.
Abigail set another personal record and nearly medaled again in the 100-meter dash, which she completed in 12.61 seconds, despite running into a headwind. She placed 10th in the race, and missed moving on to the final round by just three-hundredths of a second.
Jin said Abigail was happy with the race and pleased to have improved her pace, but was frustrated to miss the finals and a medal by so little.
“At the same time, she kicked herself,” he said. “She could have made it to the finals.”
Finally, Aibgail placed 26th in the 200-meter dash, which she finished in 26.22 seconds, missing qualification for the semi-final round by one-tenth of a second.
“She ran quite well and had a very good time,” Pearson said. “But she didn’t make it through in the end.”
Abigail — who coaches say works hard and has a natural talent for running — began training about a month ago with the Seattle Speed Track Club. Pearson said some athletes who have been with the club for years and have attended the Junior Olympics several times have never medaled at the event, making Abigail’s first performance there even more impressive.
“I have never heard of someone so talented excelling right from the very start against national-caliber competition,” Pearson said.
Now that Abigail has gotten a taste of national competition, Jin said, she plans to keep training with the club and hopes to go back to the Junior Olympics next year.
But Abigail, who will be a freshman in high school next year, also loves soccer, Jin said, and is currently competing with her Renton-based premier soccer team at a tournament in California.
“For the time being, she’s still going to try to do soccer and track,” Jin said. “She’s always enjoyed all sports. I think she’d play sports every day if we let her.”