Track & Field: Bexley's Claire MacDonald finds path to success
Claire MacDonald was a Division II state qualifier last season for the Bexley girls track and field team in the 3,200 meters, an event she has learned to endure.
MacDonald would rather run a longer 5K cross country race -- 5,000 meters -- on uneven ground than make eight laps around an all-weather track.
"Coach (Jamie) Hayes has taught me to enjoy the (3,200), but at first I didn't enjoy it at all," said MacDonald, who finished 15th (11 minutes, 58.21 seconds) at state last spring. "She helped me with my mentality of running (the race). She taught me how to not dread it, but to enjoy my time while I'm doing it.
"It's hard to run on the track, especially in the heat. It seems so much longer than a 5K (cross country course) because it's just on the track. It feels really intense. After running it one time, I was not happy about it."
Despite that, MacDonald became the first Bexley freshman to compete at state in an individual girls event since Briana Hinkle qualified in the 100 and 200 in 2003.
"I remember last year, the first time that Claire ran the (3,200), she said she never wanted to run it again," Hayes said. "Then she went to state in it. She had a great experience last season as a freshman and we wanted to see what she was capable of doing this spring."
That didn't happen because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of her sophomore season with the Lions. However, MacDonald was still able to train normally.
"I have been doing a lot of ... running with friends -- six feet away from each other, of course," she said. "It's nice to be able to do that.
"I have been doing some base mileage. I'm planning on continuing the workouts in June and getting some running consistency. I'm also doing some strength workouts at home and some core workouts. Our strength and conditioning coach (Jesse Padgett) sent some workouts to the members of the (boys and girls) track teams so that we can do those while we're away."
MacDonald loves the training and overall team aspect of cross country, but feels like track is more of an individual sport.
"Even though your score in the events does contribute to your team placing, I feel like I'm running by myself," she said. "It's so different from the team aspect of cross country.
"We focus a lot more on speed and have less mileage days and more workouts on the track. I prefer the mileage days in cross country. Speed is definitely not my strong suit."
The Bexley girls team was moved up to Division I this spring, and Hayes believes MacDonald would have been up to the challenge.
"I thought it was a joke when I first heard we were Division I," Hayes said. "Once we got over the shock of it, it was OK because I knew the girls would rise to the occasion. I was excited, Claire was excited and we wanted to see what we could do.
"Claire still has two more years with us. She is still running consistently, and that's part of who she is. She kept running in the slim chance of us having a season and now she is running to prepare for cross country."
Despite losing her spring track season, MacDonald has found that she can be content just logging miles and preparing for whatever the fall may bring.
"I have learned that I enjoyed running, and not just the competition," she said. "Some people like the competition more than running. I like running on its own, and it doesn't have to be in a competitive setting."