Kaneland sophomore Victoria Clinton has a voice as cute as a kitten. It hides the competitive heart of a lioness. How else -- along with miles and miles of training and good coaching, of course -- could one explain her individual title at last weekend's Class 2A girls state cross country meet?
Her time of 16 minutes, 56 seconds earned Kaneland's first individual state cross country title, boys or girls, and was the Knights' best finish since Kerry Rink placed third at the girls meet in 1986.
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Heading a sixth-place team finish at Peoria's famed Detweiller Park, Victoria finished 11 seconds ahead of the second-place runner. She sliced more than a minute off her first-place Kaneland regional time and 40 seconds off her second-place Belvidere sectional time.
Earlier, she set the frosh-soph record at the Sterling Invitational, and as a freshman finished 11th in 2A at Detweiller.
More should be in store for this 15-year-old, straight-A student, but perhaps not in spring track. She's a member of the Multisport Madness Triathlon Club, Naperville, and after training throughout the spring, in August she placed second at the USAT Youth Elite National Championships in West Chester, Ohio.
The youngest of Larry and Debbie Clinton's four children, her sister, Rachel, is a senior volleyball player on the High Honor Roll. Along with a strong heart and will, Victoria draws inspiration and maintains focus toward such goals as last week's 2A title from the Bible verse Phillipians 4:13 (King James): "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Q: Victoria, take us through that title race.
A: The first mile I just felt my competition out a little bit, stayed relaxed and enjoyed the race to kind of ramp it up again and get into race mode. When I got to the second mile, when I only had a mile left, I knew I had less than six minutes of my race, so I knew I had to turn it on. With a half-mile left I knew I had to just go and create some space and distance between me and the girls because they were right behind me, and I tried to pull away. I know they're fast sprinters, so I had to pull away. It took a lot of energy, but it was well worth it. And I had to mentally keep telling myself that I could do that. I know that the Lord would give me strength.
Q: How'd you gear up over the course of the fall?
A: I started off with a good season this year. Each race I'd try to stay in the top group and try to place high, and I got more confidence each race, winning some races and staying up with that lead pack. As I build up confidence I put it in my mind what I could accomplish, to be in the top three. And when I realized I could be more in the top three I stepped out of my comfort zone a little bit and tried to win.
Q: Were you expecting a title?
A: It was my goal, once I knew I had a chance. I had to put that as a goal, and once I decided that's what I wanted to do I wasn't going to back down.
Q: What do you think about when you're running a race?
A: I'm always aware of my competition. I like knowing where they're at and knowing where I'm at. I always keep what place I'm in and then I'm thinking about staying relaxed. And possibly, I think of the spots where I'm going to pick it up with a couple faster strides, break away from people.
Q: Do you ever just zone out or daydream?
A: I do zone out sometimes. I get so into the race I just get going. My body just leads me without my mind telling me what to do.
Q: When did you start running?
A: I started running in sixth grade (at Harter Middle School).
Q: About what's your weekly mileage?
A: I want to say 35.
Q: How did you start in triathlons?
A: I used to play soccer, then the season kind of came to an end and I wanted to try something new. I loved running, and I was on the local swim team and I was not a bad biker. So, my mom's friend told me of the organization (Multisport Madness). I ran a local (triathlon) and I fell in love with it. I tried out for Multisport, kept coming back to each practice even though it was tough. But I just persevered and went from there.
Q: What's the toughest of the three stages for you?
A: I think I could work on my swimming. That's probably the toughest one for me so far.
A: I think it's the people. There's a ton of us. We all dive in at the same time. It's like a dogfight because everyone just goes off the dock or pontoon. It's like a free for all, everyone just goes at it. And the competition is really good. The girls are all super-fast, you have to be a really good swimmer.
Q: All right, something different: What's your favorite movie?
A: I really like "Sweet Home Alabama." I think it's fun to watch, it's a nice love story.
Q: Though you're not old enough, who would you have voted for?
A: I would vote for Mitt Romney ... I like the Republican Party, the things that it stands for, their morals and values.
Q: What's something people wouldn't guess about you?
A: I climbed a mountain (Pikes Peak) that was 12 miles long in Colorado and I made it to the top.
Q: What would you like to do when you get older?
A: I have a couple interests. I know I want to go into the mission field in Third World countries. I want to be a missionary and spread the good news. And also being a teacher is in my interests. Then, I'd want to go to the OTC, the Olympic Training Center.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I like open-water swimming. Sometimes my team, we all hang out and go open-water swimming in the lakes and stuff. I like going out for ice cream, treating myself. I like visiting my sister (Rachel), who works at the All Chocolate Kitchen.
Q: Yummy. What's your favorite there?
A: I like the sorbet.
Q: The state cross country meet is regarded as perhaps the wildest state finals. What did you think?
A: It was a great experience, it was a lot of fun, definitely. It made your adrenaline go, a great experience, definitely very exciting. Now that I look back, two years at state, you're definitely more comfortable because you know what to expect and what's to come.
Q: Now that you've won as a sophomore, does that add pressure for the next two years?
A: No, I try to stay away from pressure. It can get the best of you. I think in the years to come I'll just have fun and see what the Lord allows my body to do and go out there and enjoy myself.
With the Madhouse on Madison bereft of hockey, for better or worse there is no better time than the present to debut a local hockey team.
Enter Aurora University. The Spartans drop the puck on their debut ice hockey season 8 p.m. Friday against Concordia (Wis.) at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, which is also the home of Northern Illinois University's hockey team. Aurora also will host Lewis University at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Aurora enters hockey competition in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, Division III. Head coach is Ryan Buchanan, a Benedictine University graduate who is also a Spartans assistant baseball coach and events manager within the athletic program.
As it's a start up program, the schedule is a smallish 12 games, and after the first four at Fox Valley Ice Arena the teams heads off for trips to Wisconsin, South Bend (against a Notre Dame club team) and Dubuque (versus Wisconsin-Platteville). Next weekend the Spartans host Indiana University's Division II team, and on Dec. 14-15 they've got Robert Morris at The Edge in Bensenville.
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