The Kamloops Track and Field Club has a diamond in Kala Stone.
Raw and uncut, but a gem, nonetheless.
The 17-year-old South Kamloops Titan won three medals — gold in the under-18 girls’ 1,500-metre, silver in the 800-metre and bronze in the 4X400 relay — at the Legion Canadian Youth Athletics Championships, held this month in Charlottetown.
Stone has won gold four years running in the 1,500-metre — her favourite event — at the B.C. High School Championships.
Her mother described the blossoming athlete as a wee bit stubborn — a girl who “knows what she wants” — and her KTFC coach, Bruno Mazzotta, agreed.
“Kala is opinionated in the sense that she is strong-minded about what she wants to do,” said Mazzotta, the club’s middle- and long-distance coach.
“Sometimes, if she doesn’t see a real tangible reason to do something, she will question that.
“I like that. I like having that dialogue with my athletes.”
For example, Stone did not warm quickly to the idea of running 200- and 400-metre races earlier this year because she is not a sprinter.
It seems like a logical line of thought, but there was no real competition for her in those early-season regional meets in the 1,500-metre, so Mazzotta insisted she test her mettle in shorter distances.
“With an athlete, their idea of what they should or shouldn’t be doing will sort of not be as evolved as a coach’s,” Mazzotta said.
To be clear, the athlete-coach duo gets along just fine and Stone is no prima donna.
In fact, her determination and strong will are among her best attributes.
When asked what she does for fun, Stone replied, “Track. There’s no time for anything else.”
The former Aberdeen elementary student’s ceiling is Jack-and-the-Beanstalk high.
“She has the talent to go all the way — Olympics,” Mazzotta said.
There are, however, plenty of decisions to make before then.
“She seems hell-bent on going to a big university in the States,” Mazzotta said.
Scholarship offers will no doubt be filling the Stones’ mailbox.
The tall, lean runner, Mazzotta said, is a kicker.
A kicker — a middle- to long-distance runner with an extra gear that kicks in on the home stretch.
“She has remarkable speed for a distance runner,” Mazzotta said.
“With that sprint speed, I actually think Kala would be best in the 800-metre.”
In Charlottetown, she entered the 800-metre on her coach’s advice and because the event took place after the 1,500-metre.
She proved to be the second-fastest under-18 female runner in the nation at that distance, which she ran only twice this season.
In Kamloops, Stone is a big fish in a small pond.
If she attends an NCAA Division 1 school, there are several pitfalls she must avoid, according to her coach.
“You have this amazing pressure-cooker environment,” Mazzotta said.
“Top-level NCAA athletes are at Olympic level. It can be quite demanding when you’re 18 to have the patience to work through those years and to put into perspective the results you’re achieving against 23-year-olds.”
Mazzotta said his pupil will also have to get used to less attention from coaches, given the size of most Division 1 school track teams.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the young athlete, who last year began feeling lightheaded and fatigued during races.
When her results started to decline, she went to see a doctor, who diagnosed Stone with iron-deficiency anemia.
She began taking iron supplements and, over time, the results began to improve.
Now it’s full steam ahead for Stone, who has eyes for a place on the world’s biggest stage.
“You watch the Olympics and, of course, you want to be there,” she said.
“I certainly would love to do that in my future.”