The Wolfpacker

Sept./Oct. 2021

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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42 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY MATT CARTER ith questions looming over whether or not there would even be a cross country season last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pan- demic, NC State run- ner Dominique Clair- monte considered just having the chance to line up at the start line of a race an op- portunity. The season's many uncertainties changed her mindset. She went from being very self- critical and setting high expectations to sim- ply allowing herself to enjoy racing. "For a while, we weren't sure how this was going to play out, and just the fact that we were able to race and get some races in was a miracle," Clairmonte said. "We were lucky to be able to do that. Really, the reward was to get to a few races as a team." Thus, when Clairmonte entered the 2020 ACC Championship meet, she had a lot of reasons to feel good. For starters, the race was at NC State's home course in Cary, where she had won the Wolfpack Invite a little over three weeks prior to the confer- ence meet. Secondly, Clairmonte was not burdened with internal expectations. "I knew what to ex- pect," she said. "It had been stuff that I had done previously. It was our home course. We had done a lot of practices there, a lot of workouts there, raced there previously. "I told myself, 'You really don't have to do anything more than you already have done.'" The final result was Clairmonte rolling to an 11-second individual victory while being the only racer to finish in under 20 minutes (19:55.1). She had been close before to win- ning that race, finishing third in 2017 and eighth a year later. "Winning the ACC as an individual and with my team, when you can do both, that's like icing on the cake," she said. Clairmonte is back for one more try at cross country. The NCAA froze eligibility for fall sports last year, affording Clairmonte that luxury. She admitted to going back and forth on the decision to return or not, but the opportunity to come back to a team that fin- ished second at the NCAA Championships was too alluring to not take. "It showed a lot of us that we have huge potential to win a national title in cross this year," Clairmonte said. "I think that is what ultimately helped me make the decision in my head, to be able to help contribute to that with my team. If I can help my team do that, I would love to be there. "We definitely have a super-talented team. Just being able to be on this team sometimes it's a surreal realization. Everyone on this team is really good, and we all have the same goal. It's nice to know if I have an off day or someone else has an off day, there is going to be somebody else there to cover it. It takes away some of the individual stress. With all the talent we have, there is less fear and less pressure on the individual." Clairmonte has a history of overcoming adversity to thrive, and she might get an- other chance to prove that. She overcame injuries in high school and her freshman year in college. This past spring, just before nationals, she contacted mononucleosis, a viral disease that can affect endurance and energy. Clairmonte had her doubts that she would even compete, and she accepted that she would not have her best race day. She still persevered and was able to score points for the Pack. "I think there is something to be said to keep pushing even when you are not at your best," she said. "The result may not be what you want. It does take off some of the pres- sure. I ended up surprising myself, but I think it's important to show up for your team when your team needs you, even if your individual performance is going to suffer, in my case by circumstances you can't control." Clairmonte was influenced to take up run- ning by her father, John, and persuaded to come to NC State by a pair of Ohio natives like herself, NC State track and cross country coaches Laurie Henes and Rollie Geiger. She has battled injuries and sicknesses to be an ACC champ and six-time overall All-ACC performer in both cross country and track. Whether she will pursue a future in racing after college remains to be seen. She is tak- ing graduate classes for her history education master's degree. Western American history and the French Revolution are two topics she can discuss for hours. Thus, she is continuing the mindset that worked so well in 2020: let the year play out. "I think I'm just trying to go into the last year with no expectations," Clairmonte said. "I am not going into it like I am trying to repeat an ACC title. I'm just trying to have fun with it once again. We'll see where that goes. "I have no expectations in terms of a future career running. If it happens it would be really cool, and I am definitely going to give running my all in my last year and see where it takes me, but I'm also in grad school trying to get my master's in history education, and I'm really passion- ate about that. "Either way, I'm very OK with either outcome." ■ W " I am not going into it like I am trying to repeat an ACC title. I'm just trying to have fun with it once again. We'll see where that goes. " Clairmonte HAVING FUN ACC Cross Country Champ Dominique Clairmonte Enjoys Running For NC State Clairmonte chose to extend her college career by using the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA has provided, and she could be a crucial part to the squad improving on last season's national runner-up finish. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE ATHLETICS

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