The temperature was nearing triple figures Thursday afternoon as Kennedy Kerber ran around Mill Race Park, being sure to climb the hill next to the amphitheater with each lap.
As the 2012 Olympic Games unfold in London, the 10-year-old Columbus resident gets inspiration to work out even harder. She knows it will take several more years of that type of dedication to realize her own Olympic dream.
“I would probably have to train a little bit more than I do now to make it there,” Kerber said, admitting she hadn’t thought much about the Olympics before last week.
Kerber, who will be a fifth-grader at Parkside Elementary, began running in second grade in Parkside’s Toe Tokens program. Toe Tokens is a parent-driven running program where parents count laps as children run around the soccer fields. For every five laps, or one mile, kids are given a plastic token.
That spring, Kerber led all second-graders with 37 miles completed. Then, the fall of her third-grade year, she led the whole school with 51 miles.
“She just started collecting those tokens probably more of a trinket kind of interest, and then she built up her endurance,” said her mother, Kim Kerber. “Then that following summer after second grade, she started the Columbus track program and just really took off.
Kennedy also plays basketball and used to play soccer, but her heart is in running.
“It kind of takes things off my mind,” Kennedy said. “If I’m angry, I’ll calm down.”
Kim played volleyball, basketball and tennis, and her husband, Jeff, played football, basketball and baseball in high school, but the Lafayette natives aren’t runners. Four of their five kids, who range in age from 3 to 12, run with the Columbus Youth Track Program, which is headed by Randy Stafford.
“I think her biggest accomplishment comes from the people she’s surrounded with,” Kim said. “She’s no more athletic than any other child at her age. What she has going for her is she’s met the right people at the right time where you’re building self-esteem and you’re building your confidence.”
Kennedy ran with some of the Columbus North High School runners on Tuesday mornings this summer. She ran with North cross-country volunteer assistant and Central Middle School assistant track coach Bethany Scruton about three days a week in the winter and summer.
“We have a lot of people that fill the gaps for her to run because there’s not a lot of 10-year-olds that run at this level,” Kim said. “She is surrounded by amazing people.”
Kennedy just returned last week from the USA Track and Field nationals in Baltimore. She finished 22nd in the Bantam (9-10-year-old) division in the 1,500 meters in 5 minutes, 45 seconds and 45th in 800 in 2:55. Last year, she was 17th in the 1,500 and 29th in 800.
“I did my best, and that’s the best you can do,” Kennedy said.
Last December, Kennedy competed in the Junior Olympic cross-country nationals in Myrtle Beach and finished 44th in 12:09 for 3,000 meters (1.9 miles).
“I think I might like cross-country more because you can run longer,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy hopes to run in college, and maybe even professionally.
“I think she has an opportunity to be a very good high school, college — whatever she wants to do — runner because of her work ethic,” Scruton said. “She’s very self-motivated and self-driven.”
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