By David Kolin
After nabbing first place in California for girls’ cross country for the second year in a row, Cami Chapus ’12 was one of the girls from California invited to Nike Cross Nationals where she placed 13th.
Chapus spent the summer preparing for state.
“I kind of built up a base of running and just kept at it,” Chapus said. “Eventually, that mentally helps me know at a state meet that I have all the strength to go out and go for it. Mentally, the day of [the meet] you have to be able to control your nerves and your anxiety.”
The week of the state meet, Chapus had to stay at her grandmother’s house in order to avoid getting the virus that was going around in her family. She did come down with the flu, but it was not
nearly as bad as her siblings’ sickness.
In the few days before the state meet, Chapus had light workouts in order to conserve her energy. One day, Chapus’ entire workout was just to run four laps around the track.
The day of the meet, Chapus was under a lot of pressure because she was the defending champion.
“I basically had a huge target on my back,” Chapus said.
During the second mile of the race, Chapus was tripped, and at the end of that mile she was pushed into a fence, but she does not know whether these occurrences were intentional or not.
The girl that tripped Chapus during the second mile was only three seconds behind Chapus at the finish line.
After she crossed the finish line, Chapus collapsed.
“I was dizzy, and I was a little confused, so I asked the trainer if I had won,” Chapus said. “And she said, ‘No. You fell, and I think the girl passed you at the last second. She jumped over you.’ And I sat up and looked at her and thought, ‘I remember crossing that line first.’”
Chapus asked her teammates if she had won the race because she still had no idea.
“I was asking people, ‘I won, right?’” Chapus said. “And finally somebody told me I did. And that was a relief for one, and it’s just the best feeling to have everything that you work hard for pay off.”
The day after she won the state meet, Chapus was invited to Nike Cross Nationals, a race that features the best five runners from each state. Although she was planning on going to the national Foot Locker race, Chapus decided to go to Nike Cross Nationals instead because Nationals is a more exclusive race.
Since the California state meet is so late in the season, California runners have to choose between the two races because of scheduling issues.
“[Nationals] was so different because the race was on a horse track, and they flooded it purposely to make it extra muddy and watery,” Chapus said. “They put hay bales to jump over, and they had man-made hills that were really small but really steep. They call it a real cross country course. Every step was just mud. We had to tape our shoes on, and we had to wear spikes. We wound our way through it. There was mud everywhere. The first five steps I had mud in my face.”
Chapus was the last California qualifier because she had the slowest time of the five girls from California. Of those girls, she finished first in the race.