Five months ago, Cassi Land was running for a physical education class and participating in local sports at Curtis Creek Elementary.
On Sunday, in her first national event, the 13-year-old finished 10th in the 1500-meter run with a time of 4:56.21 at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C.
“It was a lot of fun,” Land said.
But Land was disappointed with her 10th-place finish after an unfortunate tumble in the final lap delayed her time.
“It happens to the best of them,” Foothill Gold Running & Track Club coach Darren Holman said. “The races are very competitive and very close. It’s just something that happens when you race the best in the country.”
Running in a tight pack, elbow to elbow in the 13-14 age group, Land got tangled up with another runner and tripped. But she didn’t let that stop her.
“Cassi fell, did a barrel roll, got up and continued,” Holman said. “It’s exactly what a veteran trained athlete would do. It takes a lot of maturity and a lot of class, to have a fall, get up and still finish. I’m very proud of her.”
Land qualified for the 1500-meter finals after finishing second in her heat last Thursday in preliminaries.
Before that, she placed second at the Region 14 Junior Olympic qualifier at Diablo Valley College in Concord in early July to earn Land her first trip to nationals.
Despite not medaling, Land’s optimistic for her future in the the long-distance running world.
“I’m ready for next year,” Land said.
Kaela Dishion, racing in the 13-14 girls division, finished 23rd out of 42 participants in the 3000-meter run, clocking in at 11:14.20 on Saturday.
Holman was impressed with both Dishion and Land’s accomplishments and hard work this summer.
“From our small community, we have two athletes that are two of the best runners in the entire country,” he said. “To have two athletes make it to be one of the best runners in the country is absolutely fantastic. It just speaks to the local talent of athletes.”