When Camdenton cross country coach David Weber is looking for potential runners to join his program, one message he always preaches is that it is never too late.

When Camdenton cross country coach David Weber is looking for potential runners to join his program, one message he always preaches is that it is never too late.

The longtime coach often points to the example of former Nixa standout Courtney Frerichs who only began running as a senior and eventually became an Olympic silver medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Rio Games of 2016. Frerichs had actually run twice on Camdenton’s home course at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, but the coach now has a new example he can add to his pitch.

Camdenton senior Clare Holmes, who like Frerichs started running cross country as a senior, found a future when she signed with Missouri S&T’s cross country program on November 18.

“Truth be told, I’ve been working on her for a couple of years to try to get her out for cross country,” Weber said with a smile. “She really just fell in love with it. She is definitely a quality runner, a collegiate-level runner, especially at the Division II level. I really do think she is a diamond in the rough.”

The senior’s highlights actually began her freshman year where she was part of Camdenton’s state champion track and field team as a member of the champion 4x400 relay team that finished second in the state a year later. Also a volleyball player, Holmes decided to give cross country a shot this past fall as a way to stay in shape and made it to sectionals in her first season with the sport, finishing with Class 4 All-Region and SWCCCA honorable mention honors.

“It is completely new and very exciting. Track has always been a dream of mine and to go run or just play sports in college has also been a dream,” Holmes stated. “To run cross country and do well in cross country allowed me to pursue that dream and open the door to the opportunity to allow me to go to a school I’ve always wanted to go to.”

Holmes noted the opportunity to be outside, the team dynamic and the mentality the sport requires as things she came to love about the sport. She also found people she enjoyed being around.

“They welcomed me with open arms. It was super awesome and even though I was with them for such a short time, it just felt like family,” she said of the program at Camdenton. “I spent almost every day with them and still continue to spend time with them every day. I’ve made lifelong friends. It impacted my life in no way I could ever imagine.

“Before running cross country I was excited to run track in college, but now I am even more excited to run cross country and make those friends going into this upcoming fall.”

But, like anything worth doing, any amount of success required some hard work and Holmes embraced the challenge.

“A lot of miles and early morning practices,” she recalled. “A lot of extra time outside of practice running at the track. A lot of extra dedication and hard work to get there, but it was definitely all worth it.”

Weber said he saw the senior come to terms with who she was as an athlete and it was not too difficult to notice the desire, either, noting how she did everything she could to improve.

“Even though her journey has been a short one, it has been the right one. There are a lot of people I have known, not just here but in other places who have come to running late in their high school careers as far as distance running and turned out to be great runners,” the coach said. “I was really excited to get to work with her. She had some injuries and issues that she did not finish the year off the way she wanted, but we are looking forward to this spring.

“Even though I did not have four years to work with her, I was sure glad I got at least one.”

Holmes will put together one final track and field season for the Lakers and Weber is excited about her future overall because of her upside and potential to continue growing. Holmes has not found her ceiling yet simply because she has not been running as long as other distance runners.

“I think she has a real chance to shine,” the coach said. I think she’ll do well barring injuries and all that so I’m really excited she is getting a chance to do that because I know she really loves it.

“She is a great kid and I love that about her, too,” the coach went on to say. “All coaches love to coach kids like that.”

Holmes will study environmental engineering at the school in Rolla and found the program to be a great draw in addition to the opportunity to run.

“I love math and science and S&T offers a great engineering school in Missouri. I love that it is close to home, but it is a ‘D-II’ school where I can run competitively and still excel academically,” the senior stated.

Just like any course Holmes previously ran on, a new course has been set before her and she implores others to find their path as well.

“Just work hard no matter what. It does not matter if the talent is there yet or not,” she said. “If you work hard your goals will eventually come.”