Camille Napier and Avery Clover are this year's edition of Texas girls to qualify Foot Locker Nationals. Last year, six Texas girls dominated the Foot Locker South region and qualified to the nationals, and three girls did it in 2017.
Napier, perhaps the surprise of the qualifiers ran the race of her life. Her eighth place finish was in 17:26.9, nearly a minute and a half PR in the 5K distance. Her season started on a high note with a second place finish in the first meet of her season, then she rattled off two wins in her next three races.
It's been nearly a month since her last race, which resulted in a second place TAPPS state meet finish. It's been even longer since Napier ran a 5K race this season. Napier last ran a 5K at the McNeil Invite where she ran a 19:06.30 for 32nd place.
Perhaps the time off has been a blessing. She has had time to reflect, rest, train, and prepare both mentally and physically for this race. Yesterday, she ramped things up as she controllably went through the first mile in a 5:26 and backed that up with a 5:49 second mile, but she jumped 12 place moving her up from 25th place to 12th with just over a mile left to race. "In the beginning, I started out kind of in the middle and then I just worked my way up and held that the last mile," Napier said.
The Houston St Agnes sophomore would run 6:12 for the next 1800m to her huge PR and big time accomplishment. It was necessary in order for her to qualify because she still had to get into qualifying position, "I was just trying to pass as many people as I could, so I was just trying to keep moving ahead."
Clover has already established herself this year as a big time runner. She has several top finishes in big time races including qualifying for NXN a week ago.
She earned herself a an extra race this year in San Diego with her 10th place finish. The Atascocita junior got caught up in the back at the start of the race, but perhaps her experience in the big races this season allowed her to keep her composure.
It was definitely a testament to her patience as she moved up from nearly 30th place, a spot she hasn't been in all season long. She was able to move up 15 spots from the first mile to the end of the second mile. "I got out kind of in the back, so it was a little bit stressful because I had to work my way up to the top 10, "Clover said.
With meets like Friday Night Lights, McNeil, Chile Pepper, State, and NXR South, an athlete like Clover has had plenty of high octane competition that she could rely on to stay cool. "I just told myself to relax, I could see the front pack, so I was just going to keep going until I could catch up with them," she said.
Every cross country runner has hopes of competing in December; That means they have qualified for one of the national championship races. Clover qualified for both and will now compete in two more races this year. Next up, is NXN in Portland, Oregon followed up by Foot Locker Nationals that she earned a trip to San Diego, California with yesterday's determination.