It runs in the family

Ace's mom, Kacy Valentine, played basketball at Georgetown, and now teaches at Lake Elkhorn Middle School. Dad, a noted public speaker and motivator, played his college basketball at Towson University. He represented the Tigers in the NCAA Tournament in 1990 and 1991.

His sister Tori is a budding athlete as well. The soon-to-be 11-year-old runs on Howard County's Elite Track Club along with her younger brother.

"Oh we are very competitive, always trying to win against each other," Tori said of the sibling rivalry.

According to Craig Valentine, his son still has trouble beating his older sister — something that "drives him crazy."

Athletic success isn't the most important thing, however. Academic achievement in the Valentine household is top priority.

"As good as (Ace) is in basketball and track, he's probably even better in math," said his father.

One of the perks of traveling across the country for various track events is visiting college campuses. The Valentine children don't solely look up to decorated Olympians like Usain Bolt. Athletes that work toward achieving their degrees are held in high regard as well.

Ace says he wants to run for N.C. State after a trip to the school while competing in North Carolina. Seeing the trophy room in each college campus fuels his competitive drive.

"These are true scholar athletes, and that's what we teach them," Craig Valentine said.

Looking ahead

It doesn't matter who you ask when it comes to Ace Valentine's future. They will all say the same thing.

"He has the potential to be in the NFL, the NBA and he can definitely be in the Olympics," said Smith. "With his type of talent, the sky is the limit for him."

Sister Tori agrees, noting that her brother will only get better as he grows up.

He's already making a name for himself. In addition to the medals that he won at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, he also added three national championships at the USATF Junior Olympic Nationals in North Carolina a week earlier.

Along the way this summer, with a personal-best time of 1:04.86 in the 400, he set a new national record for 8-and-under boys.

Ace won't stop until he has at lest two gold medals in each of his favorite sports, he said. That means plenty more Cracker Barrel stops on long trips to track meets, something the Valentine family looks forward to the most.

"He's just out there having fun," said Smith. "If he's having fun doing what he's doing, all the accolades will come with it."