- Associated Press - Thursday, July 31, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - Little boys with pretend gold medals around their necks fought Wednesday to get their pictures taken with a pint-sized superstar who had won three real gold medals for herself.

Twelve-year-old Tionna Brown just returned from Texas after competing in the USA Track & Field National Junior Olympic championships and winning gold in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and long jump.

She strolled into Carver Community Center Wednesday in jeans and a sweatshirt, not knowing what to expect. The tiny Olympian was greeted with cheers and hugs from the more than 50 people who surprised her with a celebration for her achievements.

“This is exciting,” she said, shyly.

Tionna was a celebrity for the night, shaking hands with the mayor and stopping for photos with everyone.

Her aunt, Trey Beard, organized the surprise party complete with flowers, cake and balloons. She said she thought her niece deserved to be celebrated by people in the community because she had worked hard to get where she was.

“She did a good job,” Beard told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1pt9vEh ). “She went to get the gold, and she got it.”

Tionna said she was a little shocked when it sank in that she won, that she had really beat out people from across the country, especially when you consider the fact she’s only been running competitively since November.

Her father, Ty Brown, though, isn’t even a little surprised. His daughter has always been an athlete and has always been competitive, he said.

Tionna started walking when she was 7 months old, he said, because she couldn’t stand to watch her 2-year-old brother walking without her.

“She just jumped up and took off,” Brown said, with a laugh.

By 5 years old she was the running back for a local flag football team. No one could catch her, her dad said. That’s when they realized she was fast. So last year, her parents and brother took her to see track coach K.O. Jackson. They told him they didn’t think he’d seen anything like her.

Jackson said he’d decide for himself after watching her run.

“He came back and said she’s the real deal,” Brown said.

So for eight months she trained for her moment in the spotlight. She ran up and down stairs and ran on the track as much as she could.

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