NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ — The complete loss of the spring high school track season spurred Clare Kelly to push harder in her extended off-season training.

The New Providence cross-country runner has made all that extra work pay off this fall with a victory at the Mountain Valley Conference championships last week.

"Clare has had a transformative season," New Providence girls cross-country coach Alex Meyer said. "She put in a huge summer of training--maybe making up for the frustrating loss of spring--and came into XC absolutely flying. At every distance, Clare is night-and-day stronger, faster and more confident than she's ever been."

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Kelly is the TAPinto New Providence Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week.

Meyer said that Kelly's MVC meet victory was "a testament to the goals she set at the end of last fall, and her commitment to see those goals realized. This season has been more difficult for runners and coaches than any other, as we've dealt with a shortened season and restrictions on how we can practice. Clare has more than made up for the shortfalls of the season through her motivation and tenacity, and she's made the whole NPXC program better--boys and girls--through her example. I can't wait to see her run the rest of this year, especially as she dukes it out for the Union County Championship next week."

Earlier this week, Kelly took time to respond to some questions from TAPinto New Providence.

Q: What are some of your team's goals and personal goals for this year's x-c season?
A: Our team goal for this unique season is to win sectionals and I’d like us to try and get a team average of under 21 minutes. Personally, I’m trying to win the county championship and get my time as low into the 18-minute range as possible.
Q: Have you seen your running change since your last year? 
A: I have definitely seen my running change since last year, I’ve worked on increasing mileage and consistency this season and I feel like it has been very beneficial.   
Q: What has been your most memorable meet/performance to date?
A: My most memorable meet to date was from last season, when we won states. The empowerment I felt knowing my team was suffering with me and running as hard as they could was inspiring, and I’ll never forget that race.
Q: What is your best time (this season, and career)?
A: My best time for a 5K time trial on the road was 18:08, but on an official grass course I ran an 18:35 5K.
Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
A: My favorite athlete is Clare Gallagher, she’s an incredible athlete and climate activist.
Q: Do you have a role model?
A: Yes, my mom and dad are my role models because of how they have handled adversity throughout their lives and instilled valuable lessons in me.
Q: Did the pandemic affect your training in any way before this season? Did you end up spending extra time training as a result of the quarantine?
A: The pandemic heavily impacted my training in the preseason.  While missing spring track was upsetting it gave the team and I ample time to focus on putting in more miles and gearing up for the cross-country season. I know for a fact on the girls side that we all put in extra work every day during lock down and I’m very proud of them for that.
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The Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors located at 64 Main Street in Chatham.  Joe is a 25 year New Providence resident who is an active member of the New Providence community. Contact Joe anytime, whether it's to get started on helping you realize your real estate goals and dreams, or just to ask a question about the local market.  Joe can be reached at jeberle@weichert.com or call 908-868-4800