Sydney Tullai is extraordinarily fast. Of that much, she and her parents were readily aware. Now they know just how fast she is: At the distance of one mile, Tullai is faster than any girl in the world ever has been at the age of 11.
As highlighted by the Chino Hills Champion, Tullai recently recorded the fastest mile by a girl aged 11 or younger at a one-off "all comers" meet at Downey (Calif.) High's outdoor track. In fact, Tullai didn't just break the world record, she smashed the existing mark; the prior 11-year-old record was 5 minutes, 13 seconds by British runner Sarah Hopkinson. Tullai finished in 5 minutes, 7.8 seconds.
"I knew after I finished the third lap I just had to bring it on home from there," Tullai told Garden Grove TV3. "It was a pretty hard run, I'm just glad I worked through it and got [the record]."
The world record was just the latest honor in a calendar year full of accomplishments and accolades for the 12-year-old (Tullai turned 12 shortly after setting the record). Over the 2010 summer, Tullai won an incredible five different national medals, earning USATF age-group titles in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs as well as an AAU national title in the 3,000, to go with second-place finishes in the 1,500 and 800 meters.
"She has a very special combination of talent and poise, along with the other magic ingredients that an athlete must possess, a strong work ethic and coachability," Tullai's club coach, Jerry Palazzo of the Tustin Equalizers, told noted track website TrackMom.com.
To say that Tullai is used to success is an understatement. The youngest member of the seventh grade at Canyon Hills Junior High began turning heads before she had ever attended a school, singing on nationally televised broadcasts at the tender age of 3 and 4. Her track career may have been most firmly kick-started by her performance at the USATF Cross Country National Championship, leading the Equalizers through snow drifts that accumulated to as high as three inches, leading her squad to the national team title. Shortly thereafter she won AAU indoor titles at the 3,000, 1,500 and 800 meters, officially stamping herself as having arrived on the national scene.
Months later, she was stepping off the track after winning the USATF SoCal Association meet at Cerritos College as the 3,000-meter champion after clocking a time that -- according to TrackMom.com -- was not only faster than any female runner at her future high school had ever clocked, but also faster than any collegiate runner had ever run at that home track.
All prior accomplishments aside, the new mile mark clearly elevates Tullai as a serious contender for future track stardom, perhaps to a nearly unforeseen level … assuming she doesn't decide to concentrate on soccer (in which she stars in the fall) or karate (in which she already owns a black belt) when she reaches high school.
"The one thing she's got to remember is that records are meant to be broken," Pallazo told Garden Grove TV3. "She's got a long career ahead of her, and this won't be the race that defines her."