Father knows best, at least in Shalaya Kipp's case

Published: Sunday, July 1 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

Skyline's Shalaya Kipp takes a strong lead over the rest of the pack during the Region II Cross Country Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Oct. 6, 2006. Kipp won the girls race. Sarah Ause, Deseret Morning News

Sarah Ause, Deseret Morning News

SALT LAKE CITY — Shalaya Kipp learned at an early age that if she could handle pain, she could accomplish things that others couldn't.

"She has always had a tremendous tolerance for pain," said her father, Ron Kipp, who watched his only daughter qualify for the Olympics in Oregon on Friday. "I remember in high school, she told me, 'All you have to do is hurt more than the other girls.' And then she went to college, where everybody is fast. She said, 'Papa, everybody knows how to make it hurt.' It was like she lost her secret weapon."

What the 22-year-old didn't lose was the same competitive drive that helped her earn everything from a free Thanksgiving turkey to a college scholarship. On Friday it helped the Skyline High graduate, who is a redshirt junior at the University of Colorado, earn a trip to the London Olympics in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:35.73. She was .11 seconds behind the runner who finished second, Bridget Franek, and about three seconds behind her CU teammate and defending national champion Emma Coburn (9:32.78).

It was a personal best on a day when her hopes and dreams hung in the balance.

She stood before reporters in post-race interviews, disbelief obvious in her responses to questions.

"Honestly, I wasn't that sure I was going to make (the team) or not," Kipp said. "I'm still enrolled in summer school that's supposed to get started in a week. I might have to reevaluate my schedule now."

Her father, however, always believed she'd represent her country in the Olympics. It was just a matter of how, a matter of when.

"When I think about her as my adult daughter, I knew she would make it," said Ron Kipp. "I flew up there (to Eugene, Oregon) for the finals. I knew she'd make it there, and not coming to the prelim was my way of saying that."

The reason he was so confident is that he's watched her battle to be the best in various sports all of her life. And make no mistake about it, this isn't a girl who's always been on top of the podium.

In fact, one of the reasons she's so impressed her parents, coaches and friends is that regardless of the circumstances she finds her self in, she fights to exceed expectations.

She never set out to be a runner.

"She was a competitive ski racer, a very accomplished ski racer," said Ron, who works for the U.S. Ski Team as a coach. "She was just always a very good athlete. She swam, she played basketball, she ski raced. Track was always kind of No. 2. It was the way she stayed in shape."

In junior high, she showed her parents how much talent she might have when she entered a "Turkey Trot" at Churchill Junior High.

"I remember telling her that her father was a very poor ski coach and if she wanted to donate that to our dinner, I'd appreciate it. For three straight years we ate a turkey that she won."

She was one of the best track and cross country runners in her time at Skyline, winning state as a sophomore. She struggled as a junior and then, as a senior, suffered a cruel disappointment.

A judge at the state cross country championships disqualified her because her shorts were rolled at the waistband and rules state uniforms "must be worn as the manufacturer intended" to be legal. Most devastating for Shalaya was that the third-place finish for her team was erased from the record books and the Eagles ended up in fifth.

At the time, she said it was difficult to deal with, especially because she knew of other runners who weren't disqualified for the same infraction. But instead of letting it defeat her, she decided it was just one race, one loss.

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