By Ben Murphy
For her entire high school career, Clare senior Victoria Harper has blazed down the cross country trails, racking up individual and team honors. Just last year alone she won all three Jack Pine Conference jamboree races to be named MVP and finished 21st in the division three state finals, leading the Lady Pioneers to a 12th place finish as a team. Now, she’s joined by her freshman sister, Jasmine. If her rookie season is to be any indication, expect Jasmine’s carer to be just as storied.
“Our team is definitely blessed to be able to have both Harper sisters run on the same team,” Clare girls’ head coach Kyle McKown said. “Cross country is unlike any other sport in how close of a bond that the team typically develops throughout the season, but having sisters who are as strong of leaders on the team only makes that team bond even closer.”
Victoria’s personal best time is 19:04, the second fastest in school history.
“I have really enjoyed running for Clare over the years,” she said. “Some of my running goals are to get all-state at the state meet and place high as a team in the state meet. God allows me to be successful in running. Running is a ay that I can give back to him. For me, running is an act of worship to God. (Coach McKown) has worked well with me over the years. He is one of the most positive and influential people in my life.”
Her coach has taken note of just how significant Victoria’s career has been in her time running as a Pioneer.
“Victoria is the hardest working athlete that I have ever coached,” McKown said. “She values the necessity of doing the right things, is an inspirational team leader and she is a fierce competitor that always is willing to step up to any challenge. Her drive to be the best that she can be allows her to maximize her potential.
“She is the type of leader that every coach wants to have lead their team,” he added. “She is selfless and humble, often making many sacrifices so that her team will be able to enjoy large amounts of success. She is a role model and is well respected because of her character. She pushes the people around her to be the best that they can be at all times both on and off the athletic field. She leads by example and clearly showed that with her strong performance in the first Jack Pine Conference jamboree at Harrison (a first place finish on Sept. 18).”
Jasmine feels she has seen the early success in her career for many of the same reasons as her older sister.
“I think that God has blessed me with a successful season so that I can give glory to him,” she said. “I also think that if it weren’t for my family who introduced me to running early on, that I would not be in this same position.”
Jasmine has already broken the 20-minute mark in her young career, and has even finished ahead of Victoria in a few races this season. Victoria is nothing but happy to see her younger sibling flourish so quickly.
“I feel blessed that we are on the same team together,” Victoria said. “Not many people can say that they have a sibling who runs on the same team. We are very supportive of each other, we help push each other to be the best that we can be.
“I have taken Jasmine under my wing, she’s done a great job adjusting to high school cross country,” Victoria, who is considering studying and running at Spring Arbor University added. “I’m really proud of her.”
McKown adds that he realizes he’s fortunate to have another Harper working her way through the ranks. Though Jasmine’s success comes as anything but a surprise to him.
“Jasmine is a very hard working and gifted runner,” he said. “She also has demonstrated a strong and consistent work ethic that has prepared her well for this season. She was very successful at the middle school level and it comes as no surprise that she is able to compete at as high of a level as she currently is this season. She has incredible drive and she is fearless when confronted by any challenge. She works hard and consistently does the right things in order to be successful.”
Jasmine knows just how good of a role model she has in her older sister.
“Let me just say that Victoria is very dedicated and keeps me in line,” she said. “She is not only a great teammate but she is my best friend. I can’t imagine what these next few years will be like without her after she graduates.
“She encourages me to stay calm before my races and she is very wise in the way a runner’s life style should be,” Jasmine added. “When I see the challenging workouts that she does, it makes me feel like I can do them too.”
McKown is hoping the state finals meet results in the ultimate send-off for Victoria, and a preview of more to come for Jasmine.
“It would be amazing to see both Victoria and Jasmine earn All-State honors this season and to share that honor together,” he said. “That is the ultimate competition goal for any athlete, but it would be even more special if they both could share it this season as sisters. For their careers, it would be great to see them both run in the 18’s, as well. Victoria and Jasmine both value the higher spiritual purpose behind their running, and often use it to motivate them to work hard and to be the best athletes, students, and people that they can be.”