Clare Carroll – PAL Roseville Express Distance Star
By Bob Burns
At the JO T&F Nationals, Clare (r) missed a 3000m win by 0.1 second when Amy-Eloise Neale (l) caught her at the finish.
It’s one thingfor a young runner to dream about competing in the Summer Olympics, or for a precocious skier to fantasize about the Winter Olympics.
It’s something else to dream about competing in both.
Meet Clare Carroll, a 13-year-old bundle of energy, talent and smarts. The three-sport standout four, if track and cross country are considered separate sports recently asked her mother if she could take tennis lessons after watching the U.S. Open on television.
Kim Carroll had to nix that idea, for the time being at least, but she’s reluctant to discourage her daughter’s Olympic-sized ambitions.
“I think about telling her that it might not be realistic to compete in both, but I don’t say anything,” Kim Carroll said. “It’s OK to have dreams.”
The eighth-grader from Cavitt Junior High School in Granite Bay is gearing up for a big cross country season after finishing second in the youth 3,000 meters at the USA National Junior Olympics in Greensboro, North Carolina. Barely 10 months after running her first race of any kind, Carroll clocked 10:23.94 to finished one-tenth of second behind the winner, Amy-Eloise Neale.
Carroll also placed fourth in the youth 1,500 at nationals in 4:51.01. She earlier clocked a personal-best 4:48.51 in regional qualifying.
“Clare has a whole lot of natural talent,” said Jeanette Allred-Poweless, the cross country coach for the Roseville Express youth team. “We just have to share it with other sports.”
Carroll is also an outstanding soccer player and downhill skier. She plays midfield and defender for Boca Juniors, a Sacramento-area competitive team, and she’s serious enough about skiing that she’ll enroll in the Sugar Bowl Ski Academy this winter.
“She’ll move up there for one trimester,” Kim Carroll said. “She wanted to see what her potential is if she skis full-time.”
Clare’s speed and endurance had long been evident on the soccer field, but she didn’t test herself against other runners until last fall, when she joined her school’s cross country team.
“I always knew I liked to run, so I tried it,” she said. “I won every race and thought, OK, I’ll join a club.’”
She broke her collarbone in a soccer game, forcing her to miss the Junior Olympics in Virginia. The 2009 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships will be held Dec. 12 in Reno, Nevada.
“I prefer cross country to track,” Clare said. “Sometimes running laps around a track can get a little boring. Cross country has varied terrain. It’s a pretty environment to be in.”
She knows she’s getting close to the time when she’ll have to drop one or two sports, perhaps as soon as next year, when she enters Granite Bay High School as a freshman. Girls soccer and track are both spring sports.
“I’ll have a lot of choices,” said Carroll, a straight-A student who volunteers with the National Charity League and is president of her eighth-grade class at school. “I’m leaning more toward track. I’d like to keep running and see where it takes me.”
Far, according to Allred-Poweless, who coaches women’s cross country and track at American River College in addition to her work with the Roseville Express.
“I don’t know want to guess which sport she’s going to choose, but Clare really seems to have a love for running,” Allred-Powless said. “She really enjoys it.”
Kim Carroll remembers a parent coming up to her at a soccer game and telling her that Clare was the fastest runner on the field. Kim, a hurdler and sprinter in high school, deflected the praise by saying there were other girls with excellent speed.
“He said, ‘No, she’s the fastest at the start of the game and the fastest at the end of the game,’” Kim Carroll recalled. “That told me that she had both speed and endurance.”
Kim laughs when asked if she ever feels like asking her daughter to slow down.
“I do worry about it a little bit,” Kim said. “But she asks for this, and she gets different things from the different sports.
“With soccer, she enjoys working toward a common goal with her teammates. With individual sports, she knows that when she wins or does very well, it’s because she’s the fastest runner or skier. Running trains her to be disciplined more than any other sport, and ski racing is thrilling she hits 60 mph in the Super G. It teaches Clare to conquer fear.”
The discipline shows in different ways. When Allred-Powless mentioned that runners should watch their diets, Carroll gave up junk food on the spot. Her 3,000-meter race at last summer’s Junior Olympics provided a glimpse of her competiveness.
Neale, a decorated runner from Snohomish, Wash., was the defending champion, but Carroll matched her older opponent stride for stride on the final lap, losing by less than a stride in a terrific duel. Afterward, Clare celebrated her auspicious debut on the national stage with an ice cream cone.
“It’s always good to win, but training is also fun,” Clare said. “Your friends are out there with you. I don’t know … I just like to run.”