Last fall Hannibal High School's Claudia Nichols fell just short of qualifying for state. There is no such disappointment this year for the junior, who will wrap up her season Saturday by running in the Class 4 state cross country meet in Jefferson City.
"I'm not surprised that Claudia is competing at the state meet," HHS Cross Country Coach Charlie Newland said. "She has talent and a good work ethic, and that is a good combination to have."
Because of the experience Nichols has gained in the spring as a member of the HHS track program,
Newland doesn't think she will be intimidated on Saturday.
"I think Claudia is ready to run," Newland said. "She has been training for this race since June. She has experienced the atmosphere of the state track meet a couple of times and the experience of the state cross country meet is similar to that excitement."
The Class 4 state meet will take place at the Oak Hills golf course, which Newland believes Nichols is ready to compete on.
"The state cross country course is fairly hilly," he said. "Training in hilly Hannibal is conducive to running that course. She will not be intimidated by the hills."
Newland does not think Nichols should alter her racing game plan much on Saturday.
"Claudia has always tried to run an even-paced race. I think that will benefit her if she takes that approach," Newland said. "In big races like the state meet, the athletes tend to go out a bit too fast and struggle towards the end. However, the first mile at the state meet is probably the easiest, so she will need to take advantage of the course and probably go out a little bit faster than normal. It is possible that she could go out in 6:15 in the first mile and be in 100th place. So she might need to get out a little faster to avoid some of the congestion in the race. The key though is being under control in the first mile."
Newland is not setting any expectations for his runner.
"I hope that Claudia has a positive experience at the state meet. I'm not worried about her overall place. If she runs her race, the place will take care of itself. She has rested and ready to go," he said.
"Claudia has had a good season. I'm looking forward to seeing how she competes against the best runners in the state. I am sure that she will give a good effort and will represent Hannibal well."