Coming off a stellar sophomore track and field season, Harper McClain of St. Helena High continued to add to a still growing legacy, this time with standout performances at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships at Sacramento State this past weekend.
The junior-to-be won the USATF Junior Olympics national title in both the girls 1,500- and 3,000-meter races in her 15-16 age group. She held off Berlyn Shutz of the Lincoln Community Track Club in the final of the 1,500 on Sunday in 4 minutes, 36.38 seconds, less than a second ahead of Shutz (4:37.04). She then went on to handily win the the 3,000 on Saturday in 9:51.21, a good 16 seconds better than the next-closest finisher.
“Really good,” McClain said when asked how it felt to win a national championship in an interview by Milesplit.com. “I’m happy because this summer I started off with really hard training, getting up early in the morning, eating right, going to bed early and just putting a lot of effort into running. It’s really amazing.”
McClain, who started running competitively for the first time this spring, was one of three underclassmen who finished in the top 10 in the 3,200 at this year’s CIF State Track and Field Championship Meet. She said she decided to try out Junior Olympics competitions to work on her running in the offseason. She said in the interview with Milesplit.com that she plans to run cross country this fall and has already set high goals for herself.
“I do want to go to state with (cross country) and then see where that takes me, and make my own presence in the North Coast Section,” she told Milesplit.com. “Like (Healdsburg High’s) Gabrielle Peterson, she’s now gone at Oregon State and I just want to be that new runner.”
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McClain certainly took a step in that direction over the weekend. Her 3,000 time ranked as the fastest in the state in her class and was a top-10 time nationally as well. What’s more is that her time on her last lap, 75.9 seconds, was her fastest of the race.
Meanwhile, her 1,500 time was the fourth-fastest in the state and 13th in the nation in her class.
In her first year of track this past spring, McClain set the St. Helena High records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. She racked up numerous distance titles in the Coastal Mountain Conference and North Coast Section on her way to the state meet, the first girl from St. Helena to reach that stage since the 1990s.
The Napa Valley Register named her as a finalist for 2018-19 Napa County Female Athlete of the Year.
McClain said in the interview by Milesplit.com that she has not received any interest from colleges yet.