pictured: '12 Claudia Saunders with Superintendent Dr. Tucker
by Adam Baum, Cincinnati Enquirer
SHARONVILLE - For a foot-racer, especially, hope and despondency hang in the balance of every race.
Claudia Saunders know this, and she runs anyway. She's toed the starting line in some big-time races, knowing all too well that it might not end the way she'd like.
In the last three months, the 2012 Princeton High School graduate has raced in France, Sweden, Belgium and Ireland. Saunders also graduated from Stanford University in the spring with a double major in Spanish and International Relations, and she finished her college racing career with fourth place at the NCAA Championships in 800 meters. In France, her mother's birthplace, she placed seventh in the French National Championships.
"I did all those races after the French Championships because I was trying to hit the standard (time) for the Olympics," said Saunders. "Unfortunately I didn't break it ... I had until July 11.
"The end of my (college outdoor track) career was on paper, and even not on paper, it was a little disappointing. I made it to Eugene (Ore.), ended up being fourth in the country. That's not what I was hoping for, after I was second the last two years and ran faster last year. I have nothing but almost good memories, an awesome team, a fantastic coach. I don't think I would have run as fast at another university. Obviously I wish I could have run faster."
Disappointment comes with the territory of competition. It's a lesson Saunders has had to learn and one she hasn't shied away from. Probably because she knows she's on the right track.
"This is what all the pros do (to continue their career), whether they make the Olympic team or not," she said. "It looks like a disappointing season. I ran so well last year, and it's ironic because I was in shape. I think I got so caught up in running a time, I never really had fun when I raced, so I was stressed and tense. When I ran well my sophomore and junior year I didn't feel like I was chasing a time. I think I just put too much pressure on myself after running 2:00 ... when people run their best is when they're just running for fun."
Disappointment is relative and it's also incredibly telling that what Saunders perceives as a disappointing season is not enough to stop her. Admitting defeat and allowing it stop you are two very different things.
"I think I learned a lot about myself," said the 22-year old. "I plan to keep on running until 2021.
"It's easy to have fun when you're young and there's no pressure and expectations. The older you get you feel like you have all these expectations. Feeling pressure is a privilege. I'm really lucky to do all this stuff, all these places I never would have gone to. It makes you appreciate it a lot more."
Saunders said she has one race left on the schedule before she plans to return home to Cincinnati.
"I'm gonna race in Ireland and then I'm gonna chill and figure some stuff out," she said. "Fortunately, there's the World Championships next year.
"Next year I definitely want to break 2:00 in the 800. I'm still figuring out contract stuff and where I'll be. Hopefully that will be squared away in the next few months. There's no rush ... it's kind of nice to not know for sure."
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