Four Amazing Middle-School Athletes to Watch at the 2018 NYRR Millrose Games

Four Amazing Middle-School Athletes to Watch at the 2018 NYRR Millrose Games

Seven of the 15 girls who will compete in the Rising New York Road Runners 800m at the 2018 NYRR Millrose Games. Left to right: Crystal, Karess, Zoe, Giselle, Leila, Susan, and Xion

When 51 Olympians, along with top athletes from around the globe, arrive at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory on Saturday, February 3, for the 111th running of the Millrose Games, they’ll race on a track that’s been warmed up by the most talented youth athletes in NYC.

Among the many middle-school and high-school events taking place at the NYRR Millrose Games, the Rising New York Road Runners 800m will be a fun one to watch. The distance is a popular one, and this year’s roster of athletes is super-impressive.

All under the age of 13, the lineup includes 15 girls and 15 boys, many of whom participate in Rising New York Road Runners, NYRR’s new youth running and fitness platform. And just like adult runners, these kids have amazing stories—they rehab injuries, inspire those around them, undergo amazing transformations, and have unique strategies for success.  

Ahead of Saturday’s Games, we’re sharing stories from four Rising New York Road Runners who will compete in the 800m event. Read about them below, and on Saturday, follow all the action on NYRR’s social media channels or live on NBC from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. The boys take on the 800m at 2:21 p.m. and the girls run—on national television—at 4:13 p.m.

Xion Bacchas
MS 167M Robert F. Wagner
Qualifying time: 2:36

Xion Bacchas is no stranger to getting a spot in a big race. In addition to qualifying for the Rising New York Road Runners 800m, the middle-school cross-county and track athlete also qualified for the New Balance Indoor Nationals and will return to the Armory next month to compete in the mile. She is the fifth Robert F. Wagner student to qualify for the New Balance Indoor Nationals in the four-year history of the school’s indoor running program.

Xion regularly qualifies and medals in prestigious events in the NYC area and his inspired her younger siblings to take up the sport. Her 10-year-old sister, ZaQiyah, is a high jumper and has qualified for the Junior Olympic Nationals and won several medals at the Colgate Women's Games. Xion’s brother, Ya'Siin, is a distance runner and long jumper.   

Leila Williams-Molitor
MS 167M Robert F. Wagner
Qualifying time: 2:46

Xion’s classmate Leila had a terrible knee injury that required surgery. It kept her sidelined from running track for almost a year. Now, she’s getting her running confidence back. The qualifying event for the Rising New York Road Runners 800m, held on January 10, 2018, was only Leila’s third race back since surgery and she set a new personal best.

Christopher Luna (top row, center) has shaved 4 minutes and 36 seconds off his mile time in two years

Christopher Luna
MS 821K Sunset Park Prep
Qualifying time: 2:47

The son of Mexican immigrants, Chris only started running in sixth grade, and he wasn’t naturally fast—he ran a 10:33 in his first mile challenge. Two years and 35 races later, the eighth-grade honors student now runs a 5:57 mile, a big improvement all accomplished through hard work and mental grit.

Christopher’s coaches agree that his “mind over body” approach to running is what makes him successful in training and races. At school, Christopher’s secret weapon has been coined “luna power” (or “moon” power in Spanish).

At NYRR Club Night on Thursday, February 1, Christopher was awarded the NYRR Youth Male Runner of the Year award. Prior to the event, he kept this news a secret from his father and only told his dad that they needed to attend an important event on February 1.

Even more exciting for Christopher and his family: On Saturday, when the NYRR Millrose Games are broadcast nationally on NBC, the TV coverage will include Christopher’s incredible running story. Keep an eye out for it between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. ET.

Giselle Vazquez
MS 821K Sunset Park Prep
Qualifying time: 3:05

Sure, Giselle is fast on the track, but a big motivator behind her running isn’t her finish time, it’s her dream of using the sport as a way to raise money for charity. She recently watched a 7-year-old family friend pass away from cancer. Giselle helped care for the young girl while she was in the hospital, and the experience hit her hard. She hopes that one day, there will be a cure for cancer so that its youngest victims have opportunities to experience all that life has to offer—like running!

Last month, 13-year-old Giselle was the youngest female finisher at the 2018 NYRR Fred Lebow Manhattan Half.

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