Sports watchers say a local phenom is poised to sweep the California State Cross Country Championship. Malibu High School junior and nationally ranked runner Claudia Lane is breaking long held records in her sport of running and just shattered the Mt. SAC Invitational held Oct. 21, coming in first place at 15:49.
“This year she’s pretty much destroyed every record at every meet she’s been running in and these are records that are held by girls that nobody thought those records would be broken,” Mark Larsen, her coach at Malibu High School, said. “The big example is Mt. SAC. The girl that ran that race, Sarah Baxter, in 2012 ran a 16:00 and that race was called ‘The greatest cross country race ever run.’ Then Claudia went out and not only beat that record, but beat it by 11 seconds. She broke 16:00 on the Mt. SAC course, which is unheard of. It’s probably the greatest thing she’s done—even better than the Footlocker National Championship. It was amazing on that course to break 16:00. I ran on that course in the ‘70s. It’s been around for 75 years.”
Lane said Mt. SAC was her “favorite race.”
“Mt. SAC is the first time I’ve broken 16 minutes, so I was happy. I felt pretty accomplished,” Lane said of her spectacular performance last month.
Last December, Lane, now 16, won the Footlocker National Championships held in San Diego. At the time she was only a sophomore and, looking back, she says she “didn’t expect to win” the race.
Winning a national race has brought her a lot of attention in the running world. “She’s like a rock star,” Larsen said. “Everyone wants an autograph or selfie. Other runners want to warm up or cool down with her, too.”
After winning the Tri-Valley League Championship race for MHS last week, Lane is gearing up for CIF prelims, finals, the California State Championship race in Fresno over Thanksgiving weekend and intends to run the Footlocker National again in January. She’s also considering an international invitational in Scotland in early January.
“I really want to do it,” she said. “It’s just a matter of training. I’ve been running so long it tires you out a bit.”
This was Lane’s second win at Mt. SAC. The course is formidable because of its many hills. Lane and her coach had a strategy.
“We had a game plan going into Mt. SAC—goals to hit at each mile mark to break the record,” Lane explained.
Cross Country races are typically three-milers but, due to the difficulty of the hills, Mt. SAC in Walnut is slightly less, but still a grueling 2.94 miles.
As Lane is starting to focus on the State Championship, Larsen says, “She’s not even giving it her all yet.
Just doing what she’s doing, she’s winning by two minutes,” he said. “She’s only four seconds off the record. I’d like to see her get the record as the fastest girl to ever run in the state of California.
“Lane is displacing records of girls who are NCAA champions and went on to be Olympians,” Larsen continued. “They are no longer on the record boards because Claudia has taken them off.”
Lane, who was named the Gatorade California Player of the Year in 2016, also runs track for MHS, competing in the 3,200-meter and two-mile races—that’s eight times around the track. She sometimes runs one-milers to work on her speed.
“All colleges are after her. I’ve heard from every college that has a decent cross country team,” Larsen said. “She’ll have her choice of any place she wants to go. To have someone with an amazing natural ability and also a work ethic that’s beyond anything I’ve experienced before—add to that grit and [drive to] be the best.
“With her it comes together. It’s wonderful to watch her run. I don’t know who’s having more fun—her or me,” Larsen commented.
Asked about Olympic aspirations, Lane replied: “I would love to.
“I think it’s a possibility if I can stay healthy and motivated,” she added. “It would be an incredible opportunity. Of course I’d like to.”