By Jimmie Ferguson
Killeen Daily Herald
The dream of participating in this year's USA Track & Field National Junior Olympics has been shattered for a 16-year-old Ellison High School track star.
Demetria Pace isn't smiling these days after somebody broke into her home and stole the nearly $4,000 her family had saved to cover expenses for their week-long stay in Baltimore, Md.
"I'm not going to be able to go," said Demetria sadly. "I feel really bad. I have been running for three years, and this is my first year making it. Last year, I missed it by a 10th of a second. It's bad ... really bad."
They were scheduled to leave Killeen on Saturday.
Michael Thorn said they had planned to drive because of the cost to fly per person to and from Baltimore. "It cost about $200 per person to go there and about $400 per person to come back," he said, referring to flight expenses for the mother, him and his daughter.
At 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, Demetria is listed to compete in the 2,000-meter steeplechase. She is also scheduled to participate in the 3,000-meter run at 9 a.m. July 29.
The theft occurred sometime between July 3 and 8, when she and her family were in Houston, where Demetria was pre-qualifying for the Junior Olympics. Somebody they believe knows them broke into their home in the 3000 block of Panhandle Drive in Killeen and stole the cash.
"It had to be somebody that knows us," said her father, as he pointed out the various electronic items about the house that were not taken.
"When we returned home, we didn't think that much about it immediately, because we have this big dog in the backyard," said Thorn, referring to the rottweiler-mixed bloodhound.
Thorn said when he looked for the money, it was gone along with a gold chain and a few watches. "We found the blue money bag that we had the money in out in our backyard," he said.
Thorn said they felt it had to be somebody that their dog knew, because he won't let anybody else in the backyard. Up until Wednesday, Thorn had been doing his own detective work.
"I saw a policeman at the Mickey's up the street on July 8, and he said it was cash and that there was no way to put a trace on it. But he did tell me to go downtown to the police station and file a report," said Thorn, who works for DTI Properties.
"We were also under the impression that we could pull together and come up with the money, but the loans didn't go through."
Thorn and his wife had saved the money to help fulfill their daughter's dream.
"We already knew that she was going to make it, because she was participating in so many events in track and field," Thorn said. "She has two of the best coaches in track and field," he added, referring to Halle Paauw, the girls track and field coach at Ellison; Bren Jones, the head track and field coach at Ellison; and Coach Robert Griffin of Five Hills, in Copperas Cove."
Adrea Smith, the mother, is a trip driver for Killeen schools.
"I did a lot of extra trips just to make sure that we have enough money to get through, because she said to me, mama, I'm going to make it,"' Smith said. "I told her, no problem, I'm going to do that (save for the trip).
"The theft really broke my heart, because it was so much that I put in the whole year for this," said Smith, holding back the tears. "I know that it had to be somebody that we know ... to come in here. It had to be somebody who knew what they were doing, because we have so much other stuff that could have been picked up."
Demetria said she got into long distance running by mistake.
"I was a sprinter at my school, and I put track on my schedule and they put me in a cross-country class and I never go out it," she said. "And then, I just liked it and got with Coach Paauw."
The walls in Demetria's room are covered with certificates, medals and other awards she received in track and field. Medals are also hanging from the room's ceiling fan.
"She is just a few seconds behind national track star, Marion Jones," said her father. "This is the next hottest running star coming out of Killeen. Demetria is ranked No.1 right now in the state in the steeplechase and ranked third in the state in the 3,000-meter run."
With the help of the public, Demetria can still make that trip. Her parents can be contacted at (254) 462-2308 or 690-6023.
Contact Jimmie Ferguson at email@example.com