BURBANK — As a wide-eyed 8-year-old in 2008, Dallas Cortez was memorized watching the Beijing Summer Olympics on TV.
In particular, the Burbank resident was glued to the men's sprinting events and the exploits of Jamaica's Usain Bolt. Bolt ended up winning individual gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter races, as well as helping the Jamaican team capture gold in the 4x100 relay. All three races were won in world-record time.
It was after watching that spectacle when Cortez decided he wanted to be a sprinter, and hopefully follow in the footsteps of his idol, Bolt.
"I was just amazed watching him in the Olympics," said Cortez, who attended Bret Harte Elementary School and Luther Burbank Middle School. "He was just so fast. I wanted to be fast like him."
Cortez's mother, Askia Taylor, said the family was taken aback at first with Dallas' sudden interest in track and field.
"It really sparked something in him when he watched that Olympics," she said. "It really blew his mind, I think. He was just so intrigued by it all and that's what he decided he wanted to do, and he has worked on it ever since."
So, Cortez, 11, dropped playing baseball and began to concentrate on track and field.
That dedication during the past three years has paid off for Cortez. Last month, he captured gold medals in the boys' 100, 200 and 400 races at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Qualifier in Tulare.
His success in that meet qualified him for the 2011 AAU National Junior Olympics, which will take place Sunday through Aug. 6 in New Orleans. Cortez will take part in quarterfinal races in the 100 Monday and 200 Tuesday. Additionally, he will compete in the 400 final race on Tuesday as well.
"My favorite race is the 200," Cortez said. "I just like that race the best."
He also said he is looking forward to the competition.
"I'm nervous and excited," he said. "There are going to be kids there from all around the country, so I know it's going to be tough."
Cortez ran in his first track meet in April 2009 and failed to qualify for the AAU regionals. He finished the 2010 season fifth in the region in the 400 and sixth in the region in the 200.