If you have not heard about St. Helena junior Harper McClain (Napa Valley Register photo above), here is your opportunity to read about one of the fastest rising female runners in the state. McClain is competing in her first Cross Country season as a junior and just completed her first race at the Ed Sias Invitational. St. Helena is Division V school in NCS but Harper rolled to an all-time top 10 times on the rugged Hidden Valley Park course while winning the Large School Varsity girls' division race. Last Track and Field season, McClain qualified to the California State TF meet and finished in 7th place with a new personal best of 10:29.68. Despite her inexperience in Cross Country, McClain will be one of the favorites during November to challenge for a state title.
1) You ran 11:40.8 at Saturday's Ed Sias Invitational. What was your plan going into the race and how did you feel about your performance following the race?
My plan going into the race was to finish on a good note and to start my season off on the right foot. I had never experienced a cross country event, that being said, I had so much fun running the course, and after the race, I felt as if I could have pushed myself more. Because of this, I try to push myself in practice to be the best runner I can be.
2) Tell us a little about your summer and some of your race efforts and times.
This summer I put in a lot of miles and improve my running form. With this, I went on to the regional meets for Junior Olympics and qualified for the Nationals Junior Olympics and won 2 national Junior Olympic titles (Daniel Tyree interview below with McClain following her victory in the 15-16 3000m race). This was an amazing way to end the track season. Shortly after this, I attended the MCHS (Maria Carrillo High School) Tahoe running camp in which I learned a lot about running and myself, and I made a lot of cool friends. With input from my coaches this summer, Bob Cantrell and Chris Cole I have created week by week training and hitting each hard day hard and each rest day at the appropriate recovery level.
3) Looking back at your sophomore TF season, what do feel were some of your best efforts and proudest accomplishments?
My proudest moment was digging deep at the Meet of Champions (Napa Valley Register photo below) and maintaining the third position in order to qualify for state. Qualifying for the state at that point made me realize what I am capable of. I also am proud that I was able to confront my fear of repeats, and Tempos and push through the pain to reach my future running goals.
4) This is your first XC season as a junior. What did you do in the fall during your first two high school years and when did you decide to finally join the XC team?
During the fall during my first two high school seasons, I was playing club soccer in Santa Rosa, and I chose to do cross country this year because runners like Gabriel Patterson who was top of the North Coast competed in cross country, which inspired me to give it a try. Also, I was inspired by other runners from the Oregon project (specifically Craig Engels), and the Bowerman track club to continue my path on running.
5) How did you get your start in running and when did you realize that you have a bright future in running?
I started running because my dad would go on runs in the morning and I always wanted to tag along, and I also wanted to become a better soccer player. But I truly started running competitively because my friends and teammates believed that I could go far in running, so I gave it a shot. I always look up to the best runners like Eluid Kipchoge and Mo Farah to inspire me for all my runs, and I really just take my running day by day. I am lucky to have such a great track coaching staff to help guide me towards big goals of mine.
6) What does a typical training week look like for you? The distance of longest run? Typical workouts? Mileage per week?
Three days a week it is hard which ranges from a long tempo to long speed work to hill work. There are two easy days which consist of easy mileage, stretching, and core work. Saturdays tend to be long run days at about 12 miles or more. Finally, Sundays are rest days, I have learned how important it is to recover in order to train hard in the coming week. Overall, the mileage has been ramping up and so does my mindset.
7) Tell us a little about your coaches and how they have helped you develop to the runner you are today.
My coaches have been extremely helpful in guiding me towards being the best runner I can be. Bob Cantrell has helped me all this summer with my form and speed, and Chris Cole has helped me with creating workouts that I can do to improve as a runner.
8) Favorite TF event? 2 mile
Favorite TF Invitational? I have only been to the Montgomery invitational but I would like to go to this track season (Arcadia/Stanford...)
Favorite TF workout? 400 repeats or tempo
Favorite long run? Oat Hill mine trail in Calistoga
Favorite free time activity? basketball
9) Looking ahead, where is your next race and what races are you most looking forward to the rest of the season?
The race in which I am most excited about is Woodbridge. I can't wait to run with the best. I am also looking forward to competing at state and improve from there.
10) Anything else you would like to add.
My parents and coaches have been so supportive of all of my aspirations, and I am thankful for how much time they dedicate to me and our team.
Thank you very much, Harper. Best of luck to you and your teammates with the rest of the season.