Leader of the pack

 

By Catherine Wang

On a crisp November morning, the Chapus family pile into the family’s dark green SUV outside their Pacific Palisades home. It is quite the sight, since there are six Chapus children, ranging in age from one to 15. Even so, family outings are nothing out of the ordinary for the Chapus family.

What is out of the ordinary is that one member of the Chapus family is missing from the family trip.

Across town, Cami ’12, the oldest of the Chapus children, boards a bus headed for the same place as her family.

As her younger siblings laugh and watch snowflakes fall outside their car window, Chapus giggles with her cross country teammates, jittery with excitement for the next day.

This is the second time Chapus has made the three and a half hour trip to Woodward Park in Fresno – where she will compete in the State Championship for Cross Country. Last year, she was the sole Wolverine to qualify for the race, in which she placed 12th.

This year is different though–very different. Chapus has one year of experience under her belt and is driven by a goal she set over the summer: to place in the top 10 of the race. Another difference: she will no longer be the lone runner on the starting line sporting the H-W paw print on her jersey. This year, she is accompanied by her six teammates, who she has trained tirelessly with for the past five months.

The meet’s atmosphere is overwhelming, even for Chapus. She and her teammates gape in awe at their competition, which Chapus calls “intimidating.” Emotions run high as the best of California’s cross country runners take their place at the starting line.

“A lot of people wouldn’t call cross country exciting,” Chapus said after the race. “But it felt exciting.”

From the beginning of the grueling 3.1 mile race, Chapus and teammate Amy Weissenbauch ’12 were in the forefront of the race. But just before the halfway mark, Marin Catholic of Kentwood’s Theresa Devine broke away from the pack.

“I got really confused then,” Chapus said. “I was hoping she would slow down so I could catch her. But she didn’t.”

At the race’s 2-mile mark, Chapus was a full seven seconds behind Devine. With the help of her family and friends’ fanatic cheering, Chapus “got her kick going” and began gaining on Devine.

“Once I realized I was gaining on her it clicked in my head that I could catch up to her,” she said. “Once I passed her, I kept running and didn’t look back.”

Chapus ran a time of 17:59 to become the school’s first individual state winner. And her glory was not over just yet. Dazed by her surprising victory, Chapus watched as her teammates flew over the finish line after her, hoping their times would be fast enough to capture a state title to pair with the team’s recent CIF title. And it was. The team’s combined time of 95:36 was not only the fastest time at the competition, but the fastest time any Div. IV has ever run.

“I definitely would not have pictured myself winning State,” Chapus said. “If someone told me last year that I would, I probably would have said: ‘Really?’”

Chapus is only just beginning what is bound to be a remarkable running career – especially if her parents’ athletic achievements are signs of Chapus’ future.

Running on her middle school track team was the only running experience Chapus had prior to last year. But Chapus seems to have running in her blood. Her mother Victoria was a distance runner for UCLA and her father Jean-Marc ran the 400 for Harvard University.

In fact, her mother’s “phenomenal” running achievements inspired Chapus to begin running in the first place. Now, Chapus seems to be following her mother’s footsteps, which led Victoria to win three state track championships herself.

This is the first year that Chapus has trained intensively for cross country. She joined the team last year as a new ninth grader, hoping to make friends and have fun. What she found instead, was a god-given talent and a great passion for the sport.

“The feeling of crossing the finish line no matter how you do – you feel like you accomplished something,” Chapus said.

Over the summer, Chapus trained roughly five times a week for up to one and a half hours. She ran whenever she could – with her mother, her godmother, her teammates, or “basically anyone” she could find.

“It hit me this summer that training is so difficult – so much harder than training at St. Matthew’s (my middle school),” she said.

During the school year, Chapus follows a similar training routine as her summer routine, running almost every day after school with her school teammates. Some days the team would go on long runs. Other days, Chapus and her teammates would run miles or 800s consecutively.

As the season ended and the team’s championship meets were nearing, the team tapered, gradually decreasing the amount of mileage they ran each day. This way, all of the runners would feel recovered and fresh at their championship meets.

During the week before the State Championship, the cross country team sat in the school’s workout room with the lights off and visualized their races.

“Mentally you’ve already run it, your body just has to go through the motions in the race,” Chapus said of the visualization routine.

In addition to attending taxing cross country workouts, Chapus had to juggle club soccer workouts during the fall. Chapus, who has been playing soccer for the Westside Breakers since she was 11, finished her club season just weeks ago. But cross country practices and meets almost always directly conflicted with her soccer practices and games.

After her stellar cross country season last year, Chapus decided that she did not want to give up either sport. She worked out an agreement with her parents. Before the cross country League Prelims meet, soccer would take priority. After League Prelims, cross country would take priority.

Mere days after her thrilling victory at the State Championship, Chapus has started the school soccer season, the second varsity sport on her yearly athletic schedule. Last year, she was a member of the State Championship-winning team. This year, she hopes to add to her cross country team CIF title and help the Wolverines win one too.

In the spring, Chapus will bring her running shoes out of her closet again and run track for the school.

Last year she ran the 800, but she may add the 400 or the mile to her program this year.

“People always think that if you do cross country, you do track,” she said. “A lot of people do, but they’re definitely two different sports.”

While cross country training focuses on mileage, track training is “all about the intensity,” she said.

As for choosing a favorite sport of her three, Chapus says there is no clear frontrunner. Though she has not dwelled too much on the subject of college, Chapus knows she wants to continue balancing cross country, soccer, and track for as long as she can.

“I like all three of them equally,” she said. “They all compliment each other.”

Right now, Chapus is not celebrating her State victory too much, as she still has two years ahead of her to improve.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” she said. “I know next year I’m going to have to train just as hard as I did this year, maybe even harder.”

Chapus’ plans for next year?

“I know I’m going to make new goals,” she said. “I just don’t know what they are going to be yet.”

Perhaps she will aim to surpass her mother’s personal record of 17:13 – a goal which, judging by Chapus’ cross country season this year, is not a far reach.

 

Chapus ran a time of 17:59 to become the school’s first individual state winner. Dazed by her surprising victory, Chapus then watched as her teammates flew over the finish line after her, hoping their times would be fast enough to capture a state title to pair with the team’s recent CIF title. And it was. The team’s combined time of 95:36 was not only the fastest time at the competition, but the fastest time any Div. IV has ever run.

“I definitely would not have pictured myself winning State,” Chapus said. “If someone told me last year that I would, I probably would have said ‘Really?’”

But Chapus seems to have running in her blood. Her mother Victoria was a distance runner for UCLA and her father Jean-Marc ran the 400 for Harvard University.

In fact, her mother’s “phenomenal” running achievements inspired Chapus to begin running in the first place.

Now, Chapus seems to be following her mother’s footsteps, which led Victoria to win three state track championships herself.

This is the first year that Chapus has trained intensively for cross country. She joined the team last year as a new ninth grader, hoping to make friends and have fun.

What she found instead, was a natural talent and a passion for the sport.

Over the summer, Chapus trained roughly five times a week for up to one and a half hours. She ran whenever she could with her mother, her godmother, her teammates, or “basically anyone” she could find.

During the school year, Chapus follows a similar training routine as her summer routine, running almost every day after school with her school teammates. Some days the team would go on long runs. Other days, Chapus and her teammates would run miles or 800s consecutively.

In addition to attending taxing cross country workouts, Chapus had to juggle club soccer workouts during the fall.

Chapus, who has been playing soccer for the Westside Breakers since she was 11, finished her club season just weeks ago. But cross country practices and meets almost always directly conflicted with her soccer practices and games.

After her stellar cross country season last year, Chapus decided that she did not want to give up either sport. She worked out an agreement with her parents. Before the cross country League Prelims meet, soccer would take priority. After League Prelims, cross country would take priority.

Mere days after her thrilling victory at the State Championship, Chapus has started the school soccer season, the second varsity sport on her yearly athletic schedule. Last year, she was a member of the Southern California Division Regional Championship-winning team. This year, she hopes to add to her cross country team CIF title and help the Wolverines win one too.

In the spring, Chapus will bring her running shoes out of her closet again and run track for the school.

“People always think that if you do cross country, you do track,” she said. “A lot of people do, but they’re definitely two different sports.”

While cross country training focuses on mileage, track training is “all about the intensity,” she said.

As for choosing a favorite sport of her three, Chapus says there is no clear frontrunner.

“I like all three of them equally,” she said. “They all complement each other.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login