A self-described “underdog,” the most challenging thing for Mia Manganello as she heads toward the Olympic trials is maintaining the momentum of her recent national wins.

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CRESTVIEW — Mia Manganello began inline skating at the age of 8 and transitioned to the ice when she learned that ice speed skating was an Olympic sport. Now, 19 years later, the 27-year-old, who grew up on Valley Road in Crestview and attended Walker Elementary School, is a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, where she is training for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on the Long Track Single Distance World Championship Team.

From Jan. 2-7, 2018, Manganello will compete with her teammates to determine who will actually make the final cut. “I have a good amount of confidence going into Olympic trials, but given the fact that it is five days, with one event every day and you race one event and then the first person goes; it is a little stressful, but hopefully, at that point I will continue to have the confidence I had from last year,” she said.

Last year, Manganello won gold medals in the Long Track U.S. National competitions for the 5,000m, 3,000m and 1,5000m races. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Manganello, who took a five-year hiatus from speed skating after she missed the Olympic team during the 2010 trials. After not making the cut, she left the sport to cycle for five years, spending a year or so racing professionally on the Dallas DNA Pro Cycling team after she was recruited by a talent scout.

“Taking that break was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “It was painful, but having the opportunity to get into cycling — the physiology — I was the fittest athlete I had ever been. I was the strongest I had ever been and it was good to step away and get a better perspective.”

Cycling has given Manganello an edge over the competition by increasing her endurance. “The time away from the sport of speed skating made me the athlete I am today. I grew physically and mentally while away,” she said. “In cycling you are out in the heat redlining for three hours at a time, but when you skate, it’s cold and you’re on the ice. You can do anything for four minutes, compared to three or four hours on a bike."

A self-described “underdog,” the most challenging thing for Manganello as she heads toward the Olympic trials is maintaining the momentum of her recent national wins. “This year has been a lot more challenging for me mentally because I am on top and there is a ton of pressure to stay on top and I have never dealt with that before in my skating career. I have always been the underdog,” she said. “So I am definitely going through new mental challenges while staying focused on myself.”

When Manganello leaves sports for good, she plans on following in her parents footsteps by opening her own restaurant. Manganello's parents own and operate Dominic's Pizzeria in Valparaiso.