Sprinting straight to stardom

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 18, 2004

Oakland student is state’s top

100- and 200-meter sprinter

By Jason Norman

Email newsletter signup

Almost before she was old enough to walk, Gabrielle Snipes started running.

Fast. A preschool teacher nicknamed her &uot;Flo Jo,&uot; after three-time 1988 Olympic gold medallist Florence-Griffith Joyner, generally accepted as the fastest female sprinter of all time. During Gabrielle’s time on the tee-ball diamonds of Diamond Springs Park in Suffolk Youth Athletic Association competition, coaches and parents constantly remarked on her speed.

So last year, the then-seven-year-old Oakland Elementary School student took her first real steps toward track stardom. She joined the Suffolk S.T.A.R.S. youth track team, and spent most of the year sharpening her sprinting skills.

Before the newest season began, Gabrielle decided to become a member of the Lazers, a Portsmouth-based team. Three evenings a week, she charges up and down the tracks of I.C. Norcom High School. Her times of 15.1 seconds in the 100- and 32.5 in the 200-meters have made her the top-ranked sprinter in the state for her age group, according to both AAU and USA Track and Field. In every race this year, whether she was at Norcom, at Hampton’s Darling Stadium or in Virginia Beach, she crossed the finish line first in each sprint.

Now, she’s got a real chance to take on the nation’s greatest. In early August, Gabrielle will head to Des Moines, Iowa to compete in the Junior Olympics.

Hopefully, it won’t be her final Olympic appearance. When she watches the potential American Olympians at the trials in California, Gabrielle (who admittedly wants to be the fastest woman in the world someday) sees something in her future.

&uot;I feel like I can run like them,&uot; she said. &uot;I just focus on the finish line.&uot;