Reaching New Heights

Junior Christian Claypoole Wins Cross-Country Race


Mitchell Davis

Christian Claypoole.

     Castle View Cross-Country started the 2022 season off strong at the Washington Park meet on Aug. 27 with a second-place team finish for girls’ varsity and third-place team finishes for girls’ open and boys’ open. The boys’ open team was led by a first-place finish from brand-new team member junior Christian Claypoole.

     This is Claypoole’s second year running cross-country and his first at Castle View. He moved from West Palm Beach over the summer and promptly joined the cross-country team.

     “[I] joined two weeks before school started, so this is my sixth week here. [It’s an] amazing team,” Claypoole said.

     While Colorado has less alligators than Florida, the state also has less oxygen. Colorado’s high altitude gives athletes who train here an edge. Out-of-staters have to acclimate, which takes a few weeks.

     “[It was] a big jump going to 6,000 [feet] altitude from sea level, right before the season started. The first three weeks was awful, just hard to breathe. Over time it’s gotten easier and easier,” Claypoole said.

     His first race in Colorado was the unofficial CV/DC Duel in early August. A few weeks later, on Aug. 27, Claypoole toed the line at the first big meet of the season: Washington Park.

     That Saturday, the grassy park was packed with spectators and runners from twenty cross-country teams. The course was two large loops on mostly grass surface: a distance of 1.86 miles.

     “[It] wasn’t a bad course, wasn’t a great course,” Claypoole said.

     The runners in the open race were twenty teams’ worth. They gathered in their teams’ boxes behind the start line, running strides and performing chants. Senior Jacob Nicolas gathered the team in a huddle and said a prayer for Castle View.

     Runners set! announced a race official. The runners tensed.

     The gun went off and 179 athletes, Christian Claypoole among them, started running.

     Some of the boys sprinted off the start line, a rookie mistake in a three-kilometer race. Claypoole

Castle View’s boys’ open team toes the line at Wash Park.

had to rely on his discipline not to chase them.

     “Coach Lyons talked to me before the race. I just had to stick with my own race, not try to follow them, or I would just doom myself from the beginning,” Claypoole said.

     His start was still a bit fast. Early in the race, he stayed between “sixth to tenth place,” jockeying with runners from Denver East and a pack from Regis Jesuit. Claypoole held his position near the front, feeling good. Then his fast start caught up with him and he started to struggle.

     “The third quarter of the race it was just getting tiring. I was breathing heavy and I started to slow down a lot. That was definitely the hardest part … to not stop, not slow down and just keep going. I just had to push through the pain and just stick with it. Stick with the people around me and don’t let them get too far ahead,” Claypoole said.

     He entered the race’s final kilometer.

     “About 800 [meters] left I was feeling exhausted. At this point I was in third place and I got caught and passed by about three people. We got to about the 400 [meters left] mark and I saw Coach Lyons. He told me it was almost the end of the race,” he said.

     Claypoole and his competitors approached the final straight.

     “There’s this one big curve, you go around a tree. It was around 100 meters left. I saw a lot of people in front of me and I just completely booked it. Something switched in my head that I had to go, this is the last chance to give it all,” he said.

     “I re-passed the people that caught me, and then [with] 50 meters left I caught second place. With about 30 meters [left], me and the guy that was in first [started] the all-out sprint to the finish line,” Claypoole said.

     Video shows Claypoole closing in on the finish line, well behind a runner from Regis. Claypoole sprints, rapidly closing the distance until the two runners are side-by-side.

     The two runners crossed the line together, so close that Claypoole didn’t know who won. He had to wait for the results to be announced.

     “I was honestly surprised. I didn’t think I caught him at first, but they announced [that] I did. I caught him at the finish line,” he said.

     Claypoole’s time for the three kilometers was 10 minutes, six seconds. He beat the second-place runner from Regis Jesuit by less than one second. 

     Ultimately, he credits the people cheering for him for giving him the strength to push through the pain to his first-place finish.

     “This was definitely something that wasn’t as big at my old school. There was probably 30 runners on our team that just finished their own race and were out there cheering me on, along with the coaches and the parents. There was a crowd. It was really cool. It really boosted me and I got an adrenaline rush to just keep going,” Claypoole said.

     Among the crowd was Claypoole’s mom, “screaming very loud,” he said. “She was on the side along with the team.”

     In cross-country, there’s no ball to pass or puck to hit. Each athlete runs their own race. But no athlete can do it alone.

     “I don’t think I could have won it without my teammates and the really great workouts we’ve been doing and the great leadership we have,” he said.