Hunter Clark’s trust in his training helped him get to the CIF State Cross Country Championships.
The Dos Pueblos junior ran his best races at the end of the season and continued the program’s tradition of qualifying runners for the state finals at Fresno’s Woodward Park.
Clark was the perfect example of a runner peaking at the right time. He won the final two Channel League races at Ventura’s Arroyo Verde and Camino Real Parks, placed sixth at the CIF Division 2 Prelims in 15:04 on a flat 3-mile course in Riverside and ran 15:44 on the hilly Mt. San Antonio College course at the CIF D-2 Finals to earn a spot at the State Championships.
At the state finals on a hilly course at Woodward Park in Fresno, he finished in 14th place, moving up from 69th after the first mile and 23rd after the second mile. He crossed the finish line in 15:33.20.
“I felt like it was a real successful season,” said Clark. “How I progressed throughout the season is exactly how I wanted to go — how I raced the best at the end.”
Dos Pueblos coach Joshua Christensen felt Clark had the right stuff to make it to the state finals.
“This is my first year coaching cross country at Dos Pueblos, but I knew he was a special runner after watching his (track) races in the spring and his workouts this summer,” Christensen said. “Coach Micks Purnell brilliantly designed his training to take him to the state meet, and it worked as planned. There were a few races towards the end of the season where he wasn’t able to go as fast as he would have liked, but he trusted the plan and was focused on racing well at state.”
The win at the league finale boosted Clark’s confidence for the postseason. He ran 15:24 on the flat Camino Real Park course.
“That’s when I really started focusing on racing and not just doing my workouts. I was focusing on doing the best I could in these races and tapering and getting ready for CIF,” he said.
“Hunter is one of the most committed athletes I’ve had the privilege of coaching,” Christensen said. “He’s constantly looking to improve and doesn’t shy away from a challenge. He likes to race, and he steps up when the competition gets tougher. A conversation we’ve had more than once is challenging me to a race. When I ask him what distance we’re racing, his reply is: ‘Any.’”
Clark said he and his twin brother, Ethan, would race each other when they were in junior high. “He was faster than I was,” said Hunter, who is part of the engineering program at Dos Pueblos. Ethan Clark runs for San Marcos.
“I didn’t do much sports as a kid,” he continued. “I did martial arts for a little bit, but I didn’t do any team sports. Running just fit.”
Clark takes pride in continuing the tradition of Dos Pueblos runners advancing to the state cross country finals.
“We have so many strong alumni who have showed the strength of this program, and you have to show the continuation of that strength,” he said. “I really want to do it, but I don’t just want to show the continuation of strength, I want to make it stronger, and not just as an individual but as a team.”
He acknowledged teammates Josh McGregor and Nathan Alvarez for making him a better runner.
“Every step I took they were right there with me. It shows how strong our team is, too.”
Clark said he’s looking forward to track season. He runs the 1600 and 3200.
“I like track a lot more,” he admitted. “I like how tactical the races are.”
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The High School Runner of the Month award recognizes local prep runners that exemplify the term “Student-Athlete” by demonstrating leadership, passion and excellence in high school athletics.
Thanks to Santa Barbara Running Company for making this award possible and for supporting local athletes.