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Coeur d'Alene High School senior distance runner Kinsey Gomez has attracted attention from colleges. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman Review)

Kinsey Gomez on full throttle

Coeur d’Alene senior leads the pack in cross country

There seems to be only one way to slow down Kinsey Gomez.

Diagnosed with an iron deficiency when she was a sophomore, the Coeur d’Alene senior distance star has to take iron pills.

The defending Idaho 5A cross country state champion finished second as a sophomore and then passed out. When that happened again in track, she failed to medal after finishing second in both the 1,600- and 3,200 meters as a freshman, a battery of tests pin-pointed the problem.

The result was a dominate junior year when she won the distance triple crown – cross country and the two long races on the track – with nary a challenge in the state.

Gomez was wobbly at the end of her first major race this fall, the result of forgetting her iron pills during the hectic first few days of school, she said. Of course, that was after she had lowered her meet record in the Tracy Walters Invitational at Audubon Park to 17-minutes, 48-seconds for 3 miles, winning by 13 seconds.

“We try to get her to be balanced and recognize when she’s over doing it,” her mother Cheryl said. “She kind of crashes a bit. It’s hard for her to slow down. She has so much she wants to do, to see, to be part of and just experience life.”

So how does it go when Cheryl or Shaun Gomez put their foot down to try to slow down their daughter, an honor student who also works and takes advantage of almost every social activity the school offers?

“Not well,” Cheryl said with a laugh. “But later we’ll get a ‘that’s just what I needed,’ even if it’s quite reluctantly.”

Gomez has been running as long as she can remember and was never shy jumping into elementary school races.

“Bravery is not an issue with Kinsey,” Cheryl said, but soccer and all the other youth sports didn’t take hold, she reported with a hearty laugh.

“Her brother (Spencer, 14) had great eye-hand coordination from the get go,” she said. “Kinsey’s eye-hand coordination went to her brother. … She did all that stuff but definitely the talent’s in the running.”

They had an inkling she might be pretty good when she had success during summer competitions.

“That was kind of an indicator,” her mom said. “The really, really good didn’t hit until high school, the recognition. But we didn’t know she would be college material good or anything like that.”

Gomez has a goal of running in the Pac-10 but she knew she would have to post faster times. During the summer season she won the 3,000 (10:12.62) and was second in the 1,500 (4:38.71) at the Junior Olympics.

“I wasn’t really pushed at state,” Gomez admitted. “I wouldn’t say it took the fun out of it. It’s just a different kind of race. When you run against time, you know the outcome. Against another person, you don’t know what the outcome is going to be. There are more variables. I like competing against girls that push me and I got that this summer when I raced Junior Olympics. Up in the Panhandle we don’t get to face that much competition so when I do I love it.”

Now colleges are calling her, Vikings cross country coach Cathy Compton and track coach Linda Lanker.

“She is one of the top runners in the nation, that’s how good she is,” Compton said. “She is at that caliber and has the focus and determination to be there.”

Gomez prefers the longer distances of cross country to track, refuting an assumption that arose from her summer titles.

“That’s the longest races they had,” she said. “I like track but it’s so mental. It’s more about time. Cross country is more about pushing yourself to the limit. There’s more competition and more camaraderie.”

That’s why she ran to the edge at the Tracy Walters, a race that meant a lot to Compton, a former runner at the host school, North Central.

“That’s pretty exciting,” said Compton, who sees Gomez running longer distances in college and evolving into a “darn good” marathoner. “She ran her heart out that day. That’s a pretty high caliber meet and to see Kinsey do that that early in the season it shows her talent. … She gets out in the field and she’s just a rocket, a little Energizer bunny.”

That’s Gomez almost every day. She’s seventh in her class academically, thinking about pursing medicine or law. In addition to her school involvement she’s an in-demand baby sitter.

Her coaches call her a tremendous role model and Gomez has ready advice for anyone who asks how it’s possible to do everything and do it well.

“Focus,” she said. “Determination is really key. You have to want it to be able to do it. You have to put the time in to do school work and the time in to be an athlete. That might cut down on a social life but if you actually focus you can fit everything in.”

Just don’t forget to take those iron pills.