By CHRIS DELL Correspondent

Published: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 1:00 a.m. Last Modified: Monday, April 6, 2009 at 7:39 p.m.

BRADENTON — - Kristin Zarrella is not used to placing second.

When she was denied first place in the women's division of the Falcon 5K Run recently, it was on the heels of a professional tri-athlete. Zarrella still won her age division and finished just 15 seconds behind the overall leader.

I wasn't too far behind, she said. I try to keep my pace and don't worry about who passes by, but I always find myself starting fast and ending fast.

During the last four years, Zarrella has medaled in seven out of eight events at the Junior Olympics for Track & Field. Last year's scintillating performance earned her All-American honors and a state championship.

She placed second in the 1,500-meter dash and placed in the top eight of the 3,000-meter dash at last year's national meet in Detroit.

This year, Zarrella hopes to take home her first gold medal from the Junior Olympics at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Her poise is undeniable, and her attitude has been relentless.

I really want it, she said. I was so close to first place last year, and I'm looking forward to the track season. I'm working hard, and I've started doing speed workouts with long-distance running.

Zarrella's offseason conditioning program has consisted of running with best friend and teammate Ashley Platt. The two are planning a trip to the Florida Keys for a chance to relax.

The duo will occasionally run throughout Heritage Harbour and over a 6-mile stretch.

Zarrella, 13, broke numerous records in last year's Middle School Track Championships at Braden River High. Her final time in the mile (5:30) broke a 19-year-old record, and she also took top honors in the half-mile with a record time of 2:30.

The eighth-grader also holds the record for the middle school cross country meet, doing the two-mile run in 12:06.

A lot of times I think 'oh man,' no other kids have to run this far ... but that's all in the mind-set, Zarrella said. I just think about the future and what's best for me.

Zarrella will compete in the upcoming Heritage Harbour 10K and will be the two-time defending champion of the DeSoto 5K Parade Run.

Her first event of the competitive track season will be this summer in the Cats Club Meet at Bayshore. She is coached by her father, Bill Zarrella, who coached high school track in Massachusetts.

Zarrella, who has been playing soccer since she was four, will also start as a midfielder for the Haile Middle girls soccer team.

Zarrella recently helped lead FC Sarasota to a third-place finish at the President's Cup.