Washington High School sophomore Cloe Copas got to run for one year as a teammate of Maddy Garrison.
Garrison completed her high school cross country career with her third appearance at the State meet in 2017 and now runs for the Marshall University where she recently led the Herd women in a regular season-ending meet.
This year, Copas will carry the Blue Lion banner to the Division II Regional meet for the first time.
The race is being held at Pickerington North High School Saturday at 2:15 p.m.
Copas placed 20th at the District meet last week at Rio Grande to earn her first Regional qualification.
The Record-Herald spoke with Copas and her coach, Ryan Day on Thursday about the accomplishment and the challenge that awaits.
“Cloe has come a long way,” Day said. “She started running cross country just to get in shape for basketball and it turned into something she really enjoyed. And now she’s not even playing basketball, which makes me a little sad.”
“I’m going to be swimming this (winter) season,” Copas said.
“I’m very thankful she’s devoting herself to cross country,” Day said. “Her work ethic and her dedication has made her into a very good runner.
“I think Cloe has a very bright future,” Day said. “Obviously, making it to the Regionals is a big accomplishment; something she’s never done before. I think she’s really going to have a good experience Saturday.”
Day expects times from the runners from the Rio Grande District to be much improved at Pickerington North, barring a massive amount of rain today or Saturday.
“The course is a little easier and, it won’t be as muddy,” Day said. “Rio was so muddy that the times were unusually slow. I think her time will be faster. Although, any first-year runner at Regionals, their emotions can sometimes get in the way. I don’t think that will happen with Cloe.
“Every once in a while some athletes get there and they get star-struck, so to speak,” Day said. “That can steal some energy.
“There will be runners up there who will be faster than Cloe,” Day said. “But, she’ll be faster than a good number of them. We’ve talked this week about her goals as far as time and placement. We think the placement will take care of itself if she runs her best time. Which, that’s what we build for, to run our best times at the end of the season.
“Cloe didn’t have her best time at Rio, but I don’t think anyone did,” Day said. “I think the best time of her career so far was at the FAC (20:44). Rio was slow, but, she did what she had to to get out. Now we’re just asking her to take that one next step; run her best race of the season and everything will take care of itself.
“If that’s good enough for her to get out to State, great,” Day said. “If not, she’ll be proud of whatever place she does get.”
In the Division II girls race, the top five teams and top 24 individuals will advance to State.
“To be blunt, it will be very tough for Cloe to get out,” Day said. “We’re not asking her to worry about getting out to State. We’re asking her, as I said, to run her best race of the year.
“She’s trained so well,” Day said. “She’s had Maddy as a great example and she’s taken it to heart. It’s been great to see her progress from really even the beginning of her freshman year to the end of her freshman year and then she’s taken the next step.
“We’re excited and she’s excited,” Day said.
What has been the extent of training for Copas this week leading up to the Regional?
“On Monday, I ran four miles,” Copas said. “Tuesday I did just a mile on the track. (Wednesday) I did 20 minutes and (Thursday) I just did four 100-meter (runs).
“I just want to have my best time so I can end the year on a good note,” Copas said. “I’m trying to stay calm. I’ve already (qualified to Regionals) in track, so I know what to expect now. So, it’s not as much of a shock anymore.
“I freaked out at the Regionals in track and I didn’t run very well,” Copas said. “Hopefully I don’t do that on Saturday. I don’t think I’ll freak out. I know that everybody’s fast (at the Regional). It’s not like some people are slow and some people are fast, like at Districts.
“I think I’m going to try and get out hard,” Copas said. “I don’t think I’m going to try and stay up with a certain amount of people. I just want to get out really hard, so my first mile time is good that way. I want to stay in a time range of six-minutes-ish, or under six minutes, so I have the time that I want when I finish. I just want to get out hard and stay out hard.
“I’m always a little bit nervous but I feel pretty confident because it’s the end of the season, so I know this is the best I’m going to be,” Copas said. “I don’t have anything to hold back, so I want to do well.”