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Athlete of the Week: Chiara Dailey is off to a hot start in her debut cross country season at La Jolla High

La Jolla High School freshman Chiara Dailey runs during a recent race.
(Jackie Fisk)

The 14-year-old freshman, who recorded victories at two key meets in two months, has a plan for success.

La Jolla High School freshman Chiara Dailey is off to an explosive start to her 10-year plan for running.

During her first season on the Vikings’ cross country team, the 14-year-old placed first at the Ravens Fleet Feet Cross Country Invitational at Canyon Crest Academy in Pacific Highlands Ranch in September and posted an “exceptional” time in a victory at the Mount SAC (Mount San Antonio College) Cross Country Invitational in Los Angeles County in October.

According to runmtsac.com, Chiara is the first female runner since 2017 to complete the hilly 2.93-mile Mount SAC race in less than 17 minutes. She finished in 16:58.

“Running has always come naturally to me,” Chiara told the La Jolla Light. “I’ve always been a very competitive person. For me, a race is the ultimate competition. I’m motivated to not only run against other people but also to push myself.”

Her parents, Adam and Jessica, were NCAA All-American runners at one point, so the love of running might be in her genes, Chiara said.

However, her parents wanted her to wait to compete.

“My dad says you have 10 years of peak performance because running can be wearing on your body,” Chiara said. “They didn’t want me to get burned out. So I started this year, which was always my plan.”

That plan includes strenuous workouts to stay in shape, plus research of her top competitors to determine how she can get ahead and develop strategy.

At the Mount SAC race, she identified her top competitor and “stayed near her for the first two miles and then broke away at the end” to win.

“I’ve always been a very competitive person. For me, a race is the ultimate competition. I’m motivated to not only run against other people but also to push myself.”

— Chiara Dailey

“At the start of a race, I’m always really nervous,” Chiara said. “But I think about what I need to do to execute my plan. During a race, there can be physical pain and there is also a mental aspect because it really can get tiring. But I take it one step at a time. I remind myself that pain is temporary and to imagine the happiness that will come if I keep going.

“The pain is gone the second you cross the finish line. It’s the best feeling.”

Chiara said competition is the main thing she likes about running. “Running is more individual than other sports,” she said. “I also like winning, so at the end, when I win, I love that feeling.”

She said she’s proud of her Mount SAC achievement. “I put a lot of work into it and I like that I can look back on that. It’s pretty cool.”

Chiara said her “big goal” going forward is to win a state championship and that she wants the La Jolla team to win the CIF title this year. She said she intends to run throughout high school but hasn’t decided about college.

In her free time, she likes to play with her four younger brothers and cook with the family. “When I’m busier than usual, it’s fun to make dinner and just do normal things,” she said.

La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.