Chelsea Clark cutline

West Fairmont freshman Chelsea Clark won the Times Invitational Cross Country meet this past Saturday at Apple Valley Golf Course.

When it comes to running, in particular cross country, the key to being at or near the top comes down to three phases of a race.

You have to be a good starter out of the blocks. You cannot regress during the middle portion of the race. And you must be able to finish strong with a good spring to the line.

West Fairmont girls’ cross country coach Charlie Snyder sees all of those things and more in freshman Chelsea Clark, who won the Times Invitational at Apple Valley Golf Course this past Saturday in dominating fashion.

“She made a statement,” Snyder said.

But there’s no secret to Clark’s running abilities.

“All parts equal,” the coach added. “Normally, she starts well and finishes well. She doesn’t lose any places in the middle, but she doesn’t gain much. She’s just a complete runner.”

Clark has won multiple times this season in just her first year at the high school level.

The freshman is West’s No. 1 runner and instant success has had no effect on Clark as of yet.

And as for pressure? Well, she doesn’t receive any from her team, but Clark does place some upon herself.

She simply just wants to improve with each race.

“There isn’t really a lot of pressure, but I feel a little bit of pressure on myself,” Clark said after her most recent victory. “I’m really nervous before every meet because I want to do the best I can. Most of the time I feel I can do better.”

Clark couldn’t have performed much better in blowing away the field Saturday, although she felt she could.

“It’s a lot harder when there’s nobody around you because if you don’t have anybody to push you, then you don’t know how fast you have to go,” Clark said.

Her winning time of 20:13.09 was nice and all. But Clark wanted to beat the clock in under 20 minutes.

Now that’s the attitude of a hard worker. A winner. A champion. Someone who never settles for mediocrity. All qualities that have rubbed off on the entire Polar Bear team.

“She’s down to earth,” senior co-captain Emily Corley said. “She’s not one of those people who is cocky at all. She’s just part of the team. We see her up front and yell to her.”

Junior Elizabeth Hendrixson echoed her fellow co-captain’s sentiments.

“She’s awesome. And I don’t think any of us pressure her,” Hendrixson said. “She’s just like ‘I’m going to do this,’ and then she actually gets out there and does it.”

What Clark does is run at the front of the pack, which gives her a chance to win almost every time out on the course.

And Snyder couldn’t be more pleased to have her leading his team.

“It’s exciting,” Snyder said, “because she’s the fastest we’ve had for a good while.”

E-mail Andrew Manzo at dmanzo@timeswv.com.

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