Young champion

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Though she is one of the youngest members of the Albert Lea cross-country team and has yet to enter high school, that hasn’t stopped eighth-grader Chrissy Monson from dreaming big — and in turn finding success.

She has a story similar to many now world-famous athletes, who at one time started young in their hometowns and began to little by little amaze their coaches and fellow athletes.

Coming in sixth place overall at last year’s Big Nine Conference Meet as a seventh-grader, Chrissy said her passion for running began two years ago when she participated in a fun run in 2006 as a sixth-grader.

Email newsletter signup

She won the race, and with the encouragement of family and friends she decided to take up the sport.

She was also motivated by her mother, Debbie, a former cross-country runner, who would often share memories of running with her, Chrissy said.

“It was really fun to listen to,” she said.

In October of 2007, she ran at the Big Nine Conference Meet, finishing less than a second behind then sophomore Kayla Ewert and four-tenths of a second ahead of then sophomore Claire Guidinger with a time of 15:54.2.

“I was just happy to be here and know that I made it this far,” Monson said at the time. “And then that push at the end was just amazing. I didn’t even know I could run that fast.”

This summer she ran in the five-mile Hog Jog in Austin and finished with a time of 34:08. She was first in her age group and third overall for women.

Lately, she’s been able to finish her cross-country distances in 15:28, almost 20 seconds faster than she was able to run last year.

“Everyone’s doing really good,” Chrissy said.

During the summer the cross-country team runs six days a week, focusing on distance for half of the days and speed and strength for the other half.

Chrissy said she loves the team, which is coached by head coach Jim Haney.

“Our team is like one big family,” she said.

She loves the camaraderie, and she loves the friendships she’s formed since she started, she said. There are sleepovers with the other girls and spaghetti suppers for the whole team.

Chrissy and her mother encouraged anyone who might even be slightly interested in running to do so.

“It’s really great to watch her run,” her mother said. “She’s really improved a lot. It’s exciting.”

In addition to gaining motivation for running from her teammates, Chrissy said she has also gained motivation through this year’s Olympic games.

As the Beijing Olympics are in progress, Chrissy said she has been amazed and motivated by the many athletes from across the world.

“It’s so amazing what they can do — and hearing the stories behind them,” she said.

She loves watching several different sports — not only the track and field events — but also swimming and synchronized diving.

“It drives me harder,” she said.

Though she’s not sure if she’ll reach the Olympic level someday, she said it is something she loves to dream about.

“It’s exciting to see how good they are and hope that you could someday be like that,” Chrissy said.

“Someday I could be like that if I worked my butt off.”