By Michael Hicks
Kiah Leonard and Ally Klaes earned their right to run at this weekend’s AAU Youth Cross Country National Championships in Decatur, Ala. Unfortunately, due to financial reasons, they won’t be there. But that doesn’t take away from what they accomplished.
At the District 10 meet at Brighton Sports Complex last month, Kiah finished fifth and Ally seventh in the midget girls’ division. Now there weren’t many competitors at the meet — everybody who ran qualified for regionals, according to Kristi Leonard, Kiah’s mother and assistant cross country coach at Berthoud High School. Even though everybody qualified not everybody ran as well as these Turner Middle School runners did.
Kiah finished the 3k race in 13 minutes, 31.06 seconds, while Ally ran a time of 15:47.14.
“It’s pretty cool,” Kiah said of qualifying for nationals.
Their efforts earned a spot at Saturday’s national meet at Oakville Indian Mounds Park. More than 1,000 runners from all over the country are expected to compete at this year’s race. Each participant will receive an official AAU national championship souvenir t-shirt and certificate to commemorate the event, according to www.aauathletics.org. The top 25 individuals in each category will receive a medal.
Now, Kiah and Ally won’t receive those accolades this year. Kristi Leonard said that the cost to send Kiah to nationals would run about $700, an expensive endeavor in these economic times, not to mention the upcoming holiday season. But Kiah and Ally have received so much more. Besides the honor of knowing that they qualified for nationals, they received the praise of those around them.
Just because they won’t be running this time around doesn’t diminish their accomplishment.
“I don’t think it does,” Kristi Leonard said. “She (Kiah) ran all season in this age group with a lot of these same kids. Finishing fifth is pretty awesome I think.”
Want more proof that Kiah’s accomplishment was impressive? She not only qualified for nationals once but she could’ve done it twice. A week before the meet in Brighton, Kiah also qualified for a regional meet in Albuquerque.
Kiah’s older sister, Julia, a runner on the Berthoud High team, didn’t run at the Brighton meet due to a stress fracture. Her absence adds another equation to shoot for the 2009 national meet.
“That’s another reason to just wait and hopefully take both of them next year,” Kristi Leonard said.
Kiah, while disappointed that she won’t be running at nationals this year, is already looking toward 2009 and another chance to run.
“Yeah, I want to run it next year. I could have a better chance of getting a better placing,” said the 11-year-old Turner Middle School sixth-grader. “It will also be cool to go there with my sister.”