One local girl is setting her sights high this summer and is attempting to prove herself as a professional American triathlete.

Kristi Johnson has been running since junior high school. It's something she's always been good at and enjoyed, but now she's looking to take it to the next level.

"I'm at a point now where I need to make a decision," Johnson said. "I've been doing it because I enjoy it, now I need to decide if I want to pursue it as a career or if I just want to say it's fun but I'll go work a full-time job. I opted in to say I'm good enough. I've proven myself locally and internationally and I'm just going to go ahead and make the effort to go pro and do it for a living for awhile."

It's not an easy process. She must finish in the top three in a qualifying triathlon to be eligible for her "pro card." Once Johnson has the card she'll be eligible to race anywhere in the country or internationally. Each of those races earns her points, which carry her to the next level of competition. Eventually, with enough points, she'll make it to the Olympics. Her ultimate goal is the 2016 Olympics.

This summer she's competing in Austin, Texas, at the CapTex triathlon and in other pro-qualifiers throughout Chicago, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

She's hoping to get her pro card in Austin, the hometown of her sponsor Trigger Point Performance Therapy, which has become a major part of her training.

Johnson grew up in Ahwatukee Foothills and went to Mountain Pointe High School. She said her dad was her inspiration.

"My dad ran at ASU and he used to run circles around me and I vowed some day I'd do the same to him," Johnson said.

In college she met other runners and eventually joined a group that was training for marathons. When the same group of people decided to give triathlons a try Johnson went along with them and ended up loving it.

Now, Johnson has been competing in triathlons, working as a landscape architect and going to school for her master's degree in landscape architecture. She's hoping that this summer she can go pro and find a few more sponsors so she can focus solely on training.

"I swim four or five days a week and those workouts vary on a daily basis," Johnson said. "I run and bike every day. I probably get in 30-plus hours a week of training. That includes yoga and rolling on the Trigger Point balls. It's making sure I'm eating right and getting enough sleep.

"It's not just the workout; it's the recovery that really determines success in the sport."

At the end of the summer, whether or not she has that pro card, Johnson plans to keep racing, going to school and returning to Ahwatukee.

"I love the area," she said. "It's perfect. I have the mountain in my backyard. I'm minutes away from any training. It's ideal. The community is wonderful. My neighborhood growing up had just a genuine neighborhood feel. I have not found that anywhere else."

Johnson leaves for her first race Wednesday, May 25 in Austin, Texas.

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