"I usually wear my watch, but I didn't wear my watch this time, so I really didn't know what time I ran."
That's what Camille Napier said when asked about if she was worried about the 5:10 first mile pace of the Foot Locker South Regional race.
Houston St. Agnes head coach, Kristi Robbins had a change of plans for Napier for that race, "My coach made me take it off. During the race, I focused more on my placement rather than my time," Napier shared.
That change seemed to work and the extra focus came at perhaps the most important time in Napier's young high school running career. Not only did it keep her from focusing on running a time, but it helped her run on feeling her internal clock and she dialed it in when stakes were high.
Heading into the last mile, she needed to make up some ground in order to get into qualifying position for the National meet. "I was 12th and didn't want to be so close and miss it, so I pushed myself to get in the top 10 because I realized I had a chance."
Being the TAPPS 6A individual runner-up finisher this season was a good accomplishment for the sophomore, but the light in her competitive spirit was still burning. The TAPPS state meet was way back on October 21st, so Napier had time to make a championship run and it's paid off. "I still wanted to compete after state. Our state meet was early, so I had a lot of time to prepare. I was just working to have a PR at the qualifying meet and end the season well."
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Things will end well to this season as she will compete in the last cross county race of the season this weekend at the Foot Locker Nationals against some of the best girls in the nation. "Competing with the best in a championship race is an honor and I'm looking forward to the whole experience," she said.
In the TAPPS championship meet, the girls race 3200m instead of 5K. Getting to run more 5K races suits her better according to Robbins and going for huge a 17:27 5K PR at the Foot Locker South race wasn't necessarily a surprise. "She is more comfortable running 5K and has been doing workouts focusing on producing a 17:30 pace."
"I'm extremely impressed with her (Foot Locker South) performance," Robbins said. Perhaps, we may see an even bigger race from her this weekend. The national race will be a smaller and more intimate race and the weather conditions should be improved from the regional meet. Balboa Park in San Diego will have temps in the mid 60s and course conditions should be hard and dry with good footing.
You learn something every time you race and I think she learned a lot about herself and her training has paid off."
Kristi Robbins - Houston St. Agnes Head Coach
Robbins and Napier won't change much going into this weekend's race. "Keep(ing) the same schedule, and stay focused. She is going to work on getting a decent start and establishing good position, Robbins said. "She proved at the regional meet that can she run fast and compete with some of the best. "She was able to do that at Foot Locker South and she is definitely strong enough to do it again."
"The potential has been there. I think she finally had the right mindset with nothing to lose, it has given her a big boost in confidence. You learn something every time you race and I think she learned a lot about herself and her training has paid off."
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The 2019 post season has been big for TAPPS. Napier is the third runner from the league to qualify for a national meet. Along with Abraham Avila-Martinez and Ben Shearer, the they have taken up three of 15 national automatic spots from the entire souther region of the country.
Robbins and her coaching staff have led to St. Agnes to two consecutive state championships and last year won both the track and cross country state championships in the same season. She is high on the post season performance of her league, "I think it makes a statement about TAPPS and the relevancy of our programs and athletes. Private schools are often left in the shadows, but I think we are finally gaining some respect in cross country and track."
This weekend, the country will get a chance to see what Napier can do. "This is my first time at Foot Locker Nationals, so I just want to have a good race and have fun."