Ten-year-old Malibu runner Willem Kline has been competing on the track for just over year, but is already showing great potential.
The Our Lady of Malibu (OLM) School fourth grader qualified for the 2015 Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Championships as a 10-year-old at last June’s Region 23 qualifier meet in Escondido.
Kline placed fifth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:15.11 and fourth in the 800-meter run with a personal best time of 2:53.28. Both performances landing him within the top six runners that automatically advance to the national-level Junior Olympic competition. He also finished 11th in the 100-meter dash with a time of 15.62.
“It was really different when we went because at other meets, I was usually the fastest one besides kids on my own team,” Kline said. “[At that meet], there were a lot of kids who were faster than me. I was kind of ready to not get first place.”
Kline said that the Junior Olympic qualifier was his favorite meet of his career thus far.
“It was really exciting and they gave me a T-shirt,” he said. “It was the biggest meet I’ve been to, and it was just really cool.”
While Kline was not able to attend last year’s Junior Olympic meet due to family obligations, he is working toward qualifying again and plans to compete at this year’s competition, which will take place in Humble, Texas from July 29-Aug. 6.
OLM School’s track team is where Kline began running competitively last year led by coach John Meyers.
“Willem’s always been fast and he’s always liked to do things really quickly,” Kline’s mother Marieka said. “When he was in second grade, he was running fast, but he couldn’t join the [OLM] track team until third grade. We always knew he would run on the team.”
Kline made his mark at the 2015 Valley Catholic Sports League Track Championships after his first season of competition. He broke two meet records in his age division with a time of 1:11.95 in the 400-meter run and a 1:06.00 in the 4×100-meter relay, on which he ran the second leg. Kine also finished first in the 800-meter run in a time of 3:03.73 and finished second to an OLM School teammate in the 100-meter dash in a time of 15.51.
“Willem is very outgoing,” Meyers said. “He supports his teammates and speaks up for them. He is great to have as a team member because of that, and for his physical ability as well. He’s a bundle of energy.”
OLM track season is set to start in late February, and Kline is currently training for what he hopes will be another successful season. Although he occasionally trains with the Calabasas Cheetahs Running Club, Kline does most of his running with his mother Marieka, who is a seasoned runner herself. He also recently began training with a sprint coach for an hour each week.
Willem and Marieka run two miles together three times per week, typically at Malibu High School and Zuma Beach while Willem’s older brother Tijes is at swim practice.
Willem said that racing his mom is his motivation when the duo runs together. “I just try to keep up,” Marieka added with a laugh.
Medaling at the Olympics is Kline’s ultimate goal, but for now he is enjoying running, racing and improving.
“[Running] makes me happy and it’s fun,” he said. “My favorite part of a race is when you’re at the end and there is someone running right next to you.”