Blacksburg toddler finishes 60th competitive race before third birthday

Published: Oct. 22, 2023 at 9:20 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Many people who participate in long distance races begin their running careers early on, like in middle or high school.

An athlete from Blacksburg is starting her career earlier than most. Olivia Hawes has finished dozens of 5K’s, 8K’s and even a 9K race, all before she turned three years old.

Like most toddlers, Olivia Hawes loves to play and run around. But few are able to channel that high energy into running and completing 5K races. Olivia’s mom, Angel Hawes, explained her daughter was walking at eight months and running before she turned one.

“Nothing about raising Olivia is like expected,” Hawes said. “She is out there smiling, excited to run, and you see pictures from race days and she is all smiles.”

Olivia’s parents began to understand the task of training an athletic toddler, and entered Olivia into the Virginia Commonwealth Games when she was 18 months old.

“They had never had someone under five compete in the Virginia Commonwealth Games, and so we took her to that and she loved it,” Hawes said. “The crowd ate it up, halfway through the 50 meters, the crowd went insane because I don’t think they expected her to actually do it.”

After the Commonwealth Games, Olivia’s parents knew this was more than just a hobby. Hawes explained the nickname ‘Olympic Olivia’ formed after fans took note at how young she is.

“If she’s doing this at one [years old], we feel like she could very well be headed for the Olympics,” Hawes said. “Then we’re like, oh ‘Olympic Olivia’, and it stuck.”

Olympic Olivia finished her 60th race by the time she turned three.

“Her time has crazy improved, her first 5K was an hour and 10 minutes, and then her last one was under 38 minutes,” Hawes said. “She loves those 5K medals and the glory of finishing and the crowd cheering for her. She loses it, it’s so cute.”

Hawes explained that if Olivia’s dream is to go into the Olympics, her family is prepared to make the commitment to get her there.

“My husband likes to remind me that that dream can only come true with mine and his dedication,” Hawes explained. “For Olivia, for many years to come, running must remain joy and running must remain fun.”

Whether it’s a fun race against the Salem Red Sox mascot or running an out-of-state 5K while holding her dad’s hand, Olympic Olivia gives her all in every competition, just to have fun.

“I want Olivia to be the best possible version of herself, to have joy in life and discipline in life, because that will serve her well, no matter what she chooses to do,” Hawes said.

Olympic Olivia is working on qualifying for next summer’s junior Olympics in Charlotte, but until then, she will keep training at Virginia Tech’s track and running in local races.

Pictures and video used are courtesy of Angel Hawes.