Adele Clarke, thirteen-year-old student at Celina Junior High, will compete in the 4K race at the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, Florida, on December 9. The eighth grader qualified by taking fourth place in the 13–15 age group with a 16:35 time at the USATF Southwestern Association race on November 18. Four of her SpeedKIDZ Elite teammates will join her in Tallahassee.
Adele began running five years ago with her father, Tom Clarke, joining him in 5K races. “She won her first race but not the next one,” her mother, Melissa, said. “She was disappointed at her lower finish, but we explained that she would have to train between competitions if she wanted to keep winning and improve her times.”
Running with her father between races helped Adele’s conditioning and speed. By the time she reached sixth grade, Adele’s running prowess was noticeable. Coach Loretta Francis at Celina Junior High remembers watching her in that year’s PE class. “I was excited to see her come back in 7th grade because I knew she’d be a good runner. I’ve watched her grow each year. One thing I’ve always admired about her is her work ethic. She’s extremely self-motivated. She wants to do it, and she’s talented.”
Adele’s trainer, Dawn Grunnagle with SpeedKIDZ Elite, agrees: “Adele is a very hard worker. She is able to push past the uncomfortable hurt in hard workouts, which has helped her to continue to improve. She also has some natural leg speed and is able to use her different running gears in races.”
Celina Junior High’s track and cross country teams have benefited from Adele’s skills and competitiveness. During her 7th-grade year, she ran with the cross-country team and competed in the mile relay and 2400-meter races during track season. This fall during cross country, she improved her personal record (PR) at every race and culminated the season by winning first place in district competition.
Coach Francis has nothing but praise for Adele as an athlete: “She knows she wants to be a good runner, and that’s what gets me excited about it. When you have athletes who know what they want, and what their goals are, they strive for it. As a coach, I love to see that. She’s not afraid to compete, which has been a good thing to see this year. I’m ready to see her compete in high school next year.”
Grunnagle is also excited to see where Adele’s running might take her one day. “Adele has the ability to do anything she wants in her running career! I hope I see her in the Olympics someday.”
When she’s not running, Adele volunteers with the media team at her church on Sunday mornings. She also plays percussion in the junior high Symphonic Band, while also marching with the high school band playing cymbals (one of just two 8th graders who march). Her coaches and teachers appreciate how she brings her athletic work ethic to the classroom. “She always keeps her grades up—I don’t have to worry about that,” says Francis. “She’s willing to work hard, strive for excellence. She’s a wonderful role-model for other kids.”
One step at a time, Adele advances towards her new goals on the track and in life. Her family and friends, classmates and teachers, are all excited for her to have reached this latest milestone. To express their support and pride, the school will recognize Adele at a December 4 pep rally, giving her a great send-off to the race.