by AMELIA WEDEMEYER
It’s a rare moment in the life of the Ping sisters, Grace and Lauren, as they lounge together on a living room couch Monday afternoon, a week after school has let out. In a resting position the girls still look ready to run a race, do a cartwheel, or kick around a soccer ball. “We don’t really watch TV shows,” Lauren says.
While other kids might spend their summer vacations catching up on video games or enjoying marathon movie sessions throughout the day, the Ping sisters run races. At 11 years old — “almost 12,” she clarifies as Lauren chimes in, “but she’s not” — Grace holds several world records in running for her age, including her most recent record in the mile, which she accomplished last Thursday at the Nike Festival of Miles in St. Louis. “I had been wanting to break the mile world record just because, I don’t know really why, but it was just fun to do,” Grace explained. With a time of 5:07, Grace, who recently completed sixth grade at St. Stanislaus, also came in second overall in the junior high girls one mile run. Meanwhile, Lauren, who will be a fifth grader at St. Stan’s this fall, is no slouch, having clocked in at 5:41, earning her an 11th place position, 16 places higher than she was originally seeded.
Despite an admitted slow start, the Pings quickly became motivated to reach the front of the pack of 30 girls, each of whom had to make qualifying time to participate in the race. “I was right by Grace,” Lauren recalled. “For the first whole lap I was in last place and then I told myself, ‘I am not getting last in this thing.’” Motivated by each other, Lauren and Grace upped their paces with a goal to stick by others in the pack. “You have to aim to be with someone,” Grace advised. In the end, it was the girls’ mental toughness combined with their regimen of daily practice that helped them place ahead of most of the competition. “We were definitely really sore the next day,” Grace admitted, even though the girls, along with Jamison and their cousin Ella, each placed first in their age group at Trinona a few days later. This weekend they will be up at St. Thomas University in the Twin Cities for another meet. As for the rest of the summer, Grace and Lauren, along with seven-year-old Jamison and parents Ryan and Megan, will continue to run races, in addition to attending camps for various sports, including cross-country skiing and soccer. “We go to Utah and then it’s my birthday,” Grace said.
“You gotta include that,” says Lauren, who has a sly sense of humor.
This fall Grace will be old enough to compete for Cotter in cross country, which she has been waiting to do for awhile. “I’m excited,” she said. Meanwhile, Lauren has her sights set on her first world record, hopefully in the two mile, which she was .6 seconds away from achieving as a nine-year-old. “I want the world record in the two mile and the mile,” Lauren adds.
As for who the girls look up to, it’s a power list of female athletes that include middle distance runners Jordan Hasay, Alysia Montaño, as well as sprinter Allyson Felix, and soccer player Alex Morgan. “And Shalene Flanigan,” adds Lauren, referring to the petite blonde marathoner. “I’m going to look like her in 20 years.” If they keep up with the pace they’re on, in a few years, both Grace and Lauren will surely be the ones young girls look up to. “I want to keep breaking all the records and stuff,” Grace says confidently. “I want to be a professional runner.”