For a girl who spent several freezing winters in Minnesota, Kieran Gallagher sure knows how to handle the heat.
The Los Altos resident beat the heat - and most of her competitors - in the 800-meter run at the Region 14 Junior Olympics, held in temperatures reaching 95 degrees June 30 and July 1 in Fresno. Gallagher placed third in the Midget Girls division (ages 11-12) race, qualifying for the upcoming national meet in Southern California.
The race showed a lot about the determination of the Minnesota native, who moved to Los Altos with her family four years ago. With about 60 meters left, Gallagher was in fifth place. Then she kicked it into another gear and as her coach Willie Young recalled, "put the peddle to the metal," to finish third.
"It was a really fun meet," said Gallagher, who competed in three events over that weekend. "I'm happy with how I did."
Gallagher is a relative newcomer to the competitive world of track and field. Many of her competitors have been racing for six, seven, even eight years. But the Castilleja School eighth-grader has been running for only three. Gallagher's said her "natural ability" may explain her sudden success. Young has other thoughts.
"She likes to be the best - she wants to be the best," said Young, who runs the Palo Alto Lighting track and field club. "I think that she is just driven to succeed."
Gallagher trains three to four times a week. She spends most of these sessions doing sprint work - repeatedly running 200 meter dashes. Once a week, Gallagher runs nine miles to keep her endurance up.
None of this is easy for a runner with asthma, though Gallagher has kept that under control with treatment.
"If she's taking everything (for the asthma) that she is supposed to be taking, then she's a young tiger," Young said.
The coach said Gallagher's potential is unlimited and that her goal of just earning a medal next week may not be ambitious enough. He believes Gallagher has a shot at the gold and "could be a national champion before she goes to high school."
Gallagher will have an opportunity to do just that next week at the Junior Olympic Track & Field National Championships at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. The meet is scheduled to begin Tuesday and conclude July 29.
For more information about the Junior Olympics, visit www.usatf.org.