Just a week after competing in the state track and field championships, Washougal High School junior Gabriel Dinnel is busy training for an upcoming trip to Italy to represent the United States. The 17-year-old Panther said he is honored to represent the USA at an international trail running competition in the Sondrio region of Italy near the Swiss border on June 16.
The 4.3 kilometer course consists of two laps on single mountain paths, with steep ascents and fast descents.
“I’m extremely honored to have the opportunity to represent the USA at this international event, and I look forward to competing alongside a diverse field of runners in a sport that has been such a big part of my life,” Dinnel said.
The young Washougal runner should be right at home on the steep alpine trails since he grew up in the Columbia River Gorge and trains on steep, challenging trails nearly every day.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I plan to do my best to be prepared,” Dinnel said.
STRIDE event sparks interest in running
When Dinnel was in kindergarten, his parents took him to the Washougal Schools Foundation STRIDE for Education fundraiser at Washougal High School, which promotes fitness and learning.
The young Dinnel won his very first race by a large margin. At first, his mother, Carol, couldn’t believe it.
“A friend yelled at me, and said, ‘Look, it’s Gabriel,’ and I said, ‘What?’ I guess I had no idea Gabriel was a runner,” Carol said.
Dinnel went on to run in the STRIDE event every year and has never lost at his his grade level. That means he has now had 11 races for 11 years with 11 wins.
Over the past few years, Dinnel has been a part of the local U.S. Youth Mountain Running Team and has competed in the Junior Olympics, earning All-American status.
Honored as Eagle scout
Dinnel was recently honored with an Eagle Scout award, along with Washougal High School track teammate, Koy Chaston. The Eagle Scout is the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts of America program. Dinnel designed and — with the help of a crew — built a nature balance course at Mount Pleasant School in Washougal.
Dinnel, his mom, dad and younger sister leave Washougal on Sunday, June 10, and will travel to the event site in Italy, where they will stay in a small mountain village. This will be the first international trip for the Washougal junior. Dinnel starts training with the USA team on June 13, and the big race happens on June 16.
“Gabriel is a kid that works hard and is always quiet and humble about it,” Carol said of her son. “I’ve watched him train in the rain and snow, and to see all his hard work being rewarded is a dream come true.”