BW 8 year-old Lydia Kloke takes her game to Reno

RENO, NV – Lydia Kloke, a Blythewood eight-year-old, participated in the United States Track and Field National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships this past weekend in Reno, Nevada. She had to trek through the ice and snow at the USATF meet, and even though she did not qualify, she still outran nearly 100 other runners.

Lydia Kloke braved the weather during the run. | Sara Kloke

“She’s very down to earth,” said Lydia’s mother Sara Kloke. “As soon as her race is over she goes on to cheer for her teammates. She just transitions right over to being a big cheerleader for the rest of the runners.”

Despite her young age, Lydia is not a stranger to organized athletics. She has been involved in sports since she was four years old. This was her first season of cross country, but she has been on the Blythewood travel softball team, the Thunderhawks; participates in the Blythewood Dixie Youth League and is a member of the Reagan Roberts basketball league at Trinity United Methodist Church.

Her introduction into an organized running came last year when she trained for and completed a 5K with her parents and siblings. She began competing in organized cross country in the fall, and ran for the Lexington County team that featured runners ages 6-18.

“They don’t have anything on our side of town,” Kloke said. “We have some friends that participate in the program, so we thought that we would try it. That was the only way do it, was to get affiliated with an organization.”

Lydia took to the sport naturally, and under the tutelage of head coach Anna Owens and her staff, she began bringing home top three finishes. Her string of top finishes landed her in the running for post-season action.

“They have some amazing coaches, they do a really good job of inspiring the kids to push themselves,” Kloke said.  “Anna Owens is really fabulous with the kids. She’s not as focused on them being in the top of their age-group or any of that, she just gets excited with them when they beat their own times and push themselves.”

The first stepping-stone Kloke cleared was the State Championship Meet in Darlington, then she competed with others runners from South Carolina, Florida and Georgia at the Regional Meet. The top 30 runners from the Regional Meet advanced to the National Qualifiers, and Kloke recorded a ninth place finish.

“We set a goal for her and told her that if she was in the top 10 for regionals we would make the trip to Reno,” Kloke said. “Then she had that goal in her mind and I definitely saw a change in how she practiced because she knew once you added the Florida and Georgia runners it was going to be more of a challenge.”