Back in July, on an overcast day, I went to Woodinville High School to check out the cross country team’s boot camp.
What I witnessed was a close-knit group of kids who clearly enjoyed being together.
But for the many successes of Woodinville track and field, I learned the cross country program had long sputtered in league play.
At one point, I talked to a tall and charismatic kid named Clark Cyr. I asked him his goals for 2013.
"My main goal is not to get last in the KingCo races this year," he said. "At the KingCo tournament all the big schools in KingCo come in. The last three years we’ve gotten last place which has been a disappointment. But this year there’s going to be a change."
Four months later, with his senior season now in the books, I checked back in with Clark. We talked about his thoughts toward cross country and his coach Sandy Laurence.
"Sandy completely revolutionized my running," he said. "I used to be a heel strike runner. My heel used to be the first thing to hit the ground when I run. That’s what the majority of runners do. But she taught me how to run hitting my toes and mid-foot first. Which is a lot more efficient and makes you a lot faster runner. Without her I would have never been able to do it. I would be nowhere without Sandy. I wouldn’t even be running high school cross country without Sandy. Most of my success comes from her support and her teachings."
I asked Clark what it’s like running a race.
"Sometimes it’s hard to find things to enjoy because you are enduring so much pain," he said. "But it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Everyone around you is feeling the exact same pain, and everyone is pushing and fighting as hard as they can to keep up. It’s amazing with everyone trying to do their best. You’re basically killing yourself, but when you cross the finish line and you can stop, it’s the most amazing feeling ever."
When asked for his favorite memories, Clark took a moment to decide.
"The pasta feeds are super fun," he said. "They happen the night before a race. We all get together and eat spaghetti and carbo load. We have a great time, usually at a teammate’s house. We play games and talk and hang out. It’s awesome. The best memories are from hanging out with cross country friends. It’s the closest thing you can get to a family without actually being a family."
When reminded of his summertime vow to stop the KingCo curse, Clark laughed.
"This year we had a group of awesome people," he said. "We really trained super hard. We almost made it to Districts as a team. We got 9th place in KingCo. We missed it by one point, which in cross country one point is nothing. It was the best Woodinville has done in awhile. We didn’t finish last! It was an awesome way to end my senior season."
Also of note, Clark later raced at the District tourney held at Lake Sammamish State Park. He ran well and finished 33rd with a time of 16:26, missing the cut by 8 spots, for the right to go to State.