Malibu is home to a top-rated cross country athlete for the second time in three years.
Malibu High sophomore Claudia Lane has run her way atop California’s high school girls cross country rankings, two years after former Shark Caroline Pietrzyk was the state’s No. 1 female runner.
Lane, a teen who loves taking care of animals and reading sci-fi books, in addition to running away from the competition, is in her second year running competitively. She said to prepare for the season she ran up to nine miles per day during the summer, but “it’s crazy” to think of herself as a top runner.
“I’m really surprised; I didn’t expect to be here this year,” Lane said. “It’s amazing to see how much progression you can have in one year.”
The 15-year-old cemented herself as one of the Golden State’s top-flight performers on any level of high school competition last Saturday at the 69th annual Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Walnut, Calif. Lane ran a blazing first mile en route to finishing the 2.93-mile race in a time of 16 minutes, 32 seconds, the speediest time for a female that day. In fact, only a few girls have ever broken 17 minutes on the course. Last year’s fastest girl was 16:55.
Lane finished the D1/D2 Individual Sweepstakes race almost a full minute ahead of the second-place finisher. Lane said once she grabbed a solid lead and noticed no other runners were around her, instead of slowing down she kept a good running pace. She said the people cheering alongside the track energized her.
“It’s harder to keep a pace because no one is pushing you,” Lane said. “But people cheering on the sideline really helped and me wanting to get a good time and challenge myself helped me move forward.”
Lane’s freshman year featured her improving steadily as the season progressed. She finished second (twice), fifth and seventh in various meets before ending the season with a time of 18:14.8 and 13th place finish in the 5K CIF Division IV Girls race at the end of the season.
To improve her running speed and endurance, Lane said she ran up 30 to 32 miles per week last summer to get ready for the 2016 cross country campaign. Once the season started, she was running at a lighting-like pace.
Lane opened the season in September with a winning time of 16:25 at the Seaside Invitational. The 10th grader said she entered the three-mile race hoping to finish in under 18 minutes.
“I had never broken 18 before, so I when I saw the clock at the end I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” Lane said. “I was really happy; really grateful.”
Her teammate, senior Abby Blackwood, also a successful cross-country runner, said heading into the race she knew Lane was going to stand out.
“Her natural ability, plus training over the summer had such a huge impact,” said Blackwood, whose 17:37.2 placed her third in her division at Seaside.
Sharks coach Mark Larsen told MileSplit Spotlight that Lane had shown increased speed during an early season workout, but was surprised by how much Lane beat her 2015 time in the September meet.
“I knew she’d do better, but I didn’t think it would be three minutes,” he said. “It was an epiphany.”
Lane said training in the offseason was key.
“Last [summer], I didn’t train for cross country; I didn’t build a strong base for mileage until fall of my freshman year,” she said.
In the meets since Seaside, Lane has tallied up impressive finishes. Her time of 16:16.7 at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic was second only to Brie Oakley of Colorado, the nation’s No. 1 ranked runner.
Lane’s 11:06.6 won the two-mile Palos Verdes Invitational. She won the TCCA #1 with a time of 17:16.5 and the Twilight Invitational with a time of 17:09.6. Following that, Lane’s 16:58.6 was tops at the TCAA #2.
Lane isn’t the only Malibu runner with impressive finishes this season. Blackwood ran the Mt. SAC course in 19:12.10, a day before Lane competed. Blackwood posted a fourth-place finish in the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, TCAA #1 and TCAA #2 and second at the Twilight Invitational.
The cross country runner of three seasons said she wants having a successful senior season is motivation.
“It’s my last high school cross country season, so I want to do the best I can,” Blackwood, the CIF finalist of two seasons, said. “I’m just motivated by wanting to get to CIF again because it was such an awesome experience.”
Before last season, the last time Lane ran competitively was as a sixth grader. She said she is shocked to hear herself use cross country terms and is still learning more and more about the sport.
The Shark said running is fun and a stress relief.
“I just love running,” Lane said. “I feel free. It makes me a better person; I can challenge myself every day.”