By Ben Murphy
Clare siblings Victoria and Jasmine Harper couldn’t be stopped this cross country season. Whether it was a dominating run in one of the Jack Pine Conference jamborees, sweeping the top two spots at regionals or a strong finish at the state finals meet, 2013 belonged to the Harper sisters. That’s why they’ve been named the Clare County Review’s girls’ cross country co-runners of the year.
“Coaching both Jasmine and Victoria this season has been a great experience,” Clare girls’ head coach Kyle McKown said. “Both are well respected because of their character and leadership. They share a very close bond that was evident throughout the entire season and this only made our team grow closer as well.”
Victoria, a senior finishes her career as a four-time first team all Jack Pine Conference member, was all-regional four times, was a three time academic all-state, was all-state in 2012, was the JPC MVP in 2012 and her career best time of 19:04 is the third fastest in school history.
“This season I realized that cross country is not just about running fast times or placing high,” Victoria Harper said. “This season was about overcoming obstacles and creating lasting memories with my team and my coach. Being that it is my senior year, this team is very special to me and I will never forget all of the memories and the support form the Clare community.”
McKown had plenty of positive things to say about the runner was well.
“She had to persevere through challenges this season, but ran strongest at the regional and state meets,” he said. “A true warrior, leader and an even better person. One of the most selfless people that I have ever met.”
Victoria loved the fact that she was able to finish her high school career at the state finals meet, where she came in 34th place with a time of 20:00 and the Lady Pioneers took ninth place as a team.
“I felt blessed to be able to run for my teammates and my God,” she said. “It was also nice to know that I had a sibling running the race with me. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to run with Jasmine.”
McKown credits Victoria for much more than just fast individual times, but as a big piece of the puzzle to the Lady Pioneers four straight JPC titles.
“She is one of the biggest reasons why our program has been successful over the past four seasons,” McKown said. “She is the hardest working athlete that I have ever coached, and more importantly, she inspires others to be better runners and people. She has meant so much to all of us because of all that she has done to bring the best out in all of us. She has been successful because she was willing to work hard and do the right things along the way.”
Jasmine, while just a freshman, has already made quite a name for herself, being named the JPC MVP, was first team all-conference, won the division three regional race, took 10th in the state meet and her best time of 18:35 is a school record.
“I am extremely blessed to have such a positive season my freshman year,” Jasmine Harper said. “I know that it’s all because of God. It would have not been the same without my coach and teammates.”
Her coach took note of just how remarkable her campaign would have been for anyone, let alone for a freshman.
“She had one of the most impressive seasons of cross country and as hard as she works, the best is yet to come for her,” McKown said. “She does the right things, leads by example and has the competitive drive to only get faster.”
Jasmine hasn’t let the early success get to her head. If anything, it’s made her ready to work harder.
“My ultimate goal would be to place higher than I did this year at the state meet and I leave the rest up to God,” she said, adding she isn’t worried about living up to higher expectations next year. “I think that the greatest amount of pressure that can be placed on people comes from themselves. I can’t control what other people may say and hope for but I can control my confidence. I have learned to put my confidence and hope in God through this season more than any other experience I have had.”
Victoria’s cross country days in high school may be over but she is hoping to continue her career as a runner and student at Spring Arbor University.
“As strong of a runner as Victoria has been in high school, I believe that she will have a greater impact as a runner in college,” McKown said. “She has all of the tools to run even faster in college and it will be fun to see her continue to grow as an athlete at the collegiate level.”
Meanwhile Jasmine still has three more seasons of high school goals in front of her.
“She has three more years to work hard and to chase down all of the big goals that she has for herself,” McKown said. “There is no limit to Jasmine’s potential as a runner. She has the ability to continue to improve and get faster with each season, and it will be exciting to see how fast that she will be able to run throughout her high school and collegiate career.”