UPDATE: Injury causes Olympic hopeful to change course

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WTAP) - UPDATE 2/16/16 11:23 AM

Clara Santucci was a long way from home when she competed in the Olympic marathon trial in Los Angeles. The Doddridge County local was hoping to make her supporters proud and qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games

Unfortunately, during the ninth mile of the race, she felt her hamstring tightening.

Santucci says she'd struggled with it before, but she'd adjusted her training regimen. She'd been careful, making sure to stay well-rested before the trial.

She pushed onward, making it to 15 miles. As hard as it was for her, she ultimately decided she needed to stop before she did permanent damage. She also ran the risk of ruining her career if she didn't listen to her body.

Despite what happened, she's optimistic for the future.

"I definitely want to come back stronger. I know I have more in me. It's not the end of my journey or my story. I'm ready and excited to go after it," said Santucci.

After this race, she was planning to take some time off anyway, so it's the perfect time to reflect and recharge. She says she'll spend this time figuring out why her hamstring is causing her trouble and hopefully prevent it from happening again.

As for her training, she says she'll base it off her recovery. If anything, she says it's motivated her even more to go for the gold at the next Olympic trial in 2020.


UPDATE 2/15/2016 6:00 PM

After suffering a hamstring injury during the Olympic marathon trial in Los Angeles, Doddridge County native Clara Santucci had to withdraw.

Fearing for her health, she stopped during the 15th mile, disqualifying her from the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.

She says she's still hopeful for another shot at the games in 2020.


MORGANTOWN, W. Va. (WTAP) - The distance from Parkersburg to Morgantown is a little over one hundred miles. It's about the same distance Clara Santucci has been running around Morgantown each week in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

The time to physically prepare for the February 13th marathon is over. It's time for the Doddridge County native to perform.

"I've taken it a little back on the mileage and the intensity. All of the work is done, so I'm just trying to feel good for the race, and make sure I'm healthy and ready to go on race day now," Santucci said.

Race Day is quickly approaching, but Clara says she's more eager than nervous.

"I'm exited. I've had couple moments when I've been nervous, but I think I'm well-prepared. I'm just trying to focus in and get that blinder focus on the race and my strategy." Santucci said.

With months of training to fall back on, nerves are far from getting the better of her.

"I think a lot about all the work I've done up to this point. There's always a few workouts you think about that were really positive. There might only be a handful out of the hundreds of times that I've run, but those are the best moments that I've had in training that I go back to. They really build my confidence and let me know that I'm ready for this moment. And I think about all the people behind me that have supported me, and just what a great experience it's going to be and what a great opportunity it is," Santucci said.

Clara says there have been multiple elements of her marathon training.

"Running is, of course, the most obvious thing. You have to run a lot to be good at running and to be good at the marathon. There's some strength training and core work. Nutrition is important so I make sure I fuel correctly. Get enough sleep, recovery is just as important as the hard work because that's where you find your gains in training. It's really just a lifestyle. It's not really just training, it's how you live," Santucci said.

Mental preparation can be just as important as physical preparedness. Clara says whether it's her family, her coaches, her co-workers, or those cheering on the sidelines, the people who continue to support her time after time are a constant source of inspiration.

"It's a dream come true to be able to go after this goal and I couldn't do it without the support that I have from everyone. It's really the reason why I keep going sometimes. I have my own wishes and dreams, but it really doesn't come true without the support that I get from other people. It's really helped me a lot. It means a lot," Santucci said.

Clara says she's ready for the 26.2 mile race on Saturday as she puts faith in the training she hopes will help push her across the finish line.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WTAP) - Between Sunday night's Superbowl and next month's NCAA March Madness, it's a big time of the year for sporting events. This weekend, several men and women will race for a chance to compete on the world's biggest stage. This year, a local competitor is hoping to make it big.

This summer some of the best athletes in the world will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Hundreds of competitors will attempt to qualify for a chance to represent their country. Hoping to be one of the marathon runners representing the U.S. is West Virginia's very own Clara Santucci.

"I grew up in Doddridge County, and they always say you're a true West Virginian if you say what county you're from and not the town because I wasn't actually in a town where I grew up," Santucci said.

She says she spent a lot of time outside with her five siblings.

"I was outside a lot, just playing and developing as a strong little girl, just running around on the hills, exploring and dreaming. I had no one telling me anything was impossible. I always had my parents telling me that things were possible and asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I think that really went into my future and developed me to think about these big dreams, and that anything is possible," Santucci said.

Clara's road to running success started early.

"Really I guess it started in gym class. I ran the mile in gym and took it pretty competitively, unlike a lot of my other classmates," Santucci said.

She had a competitive spirit, nurtured by coaches, that stayed with her as she grew up. She became a state champion in high school before moving on to college.

"The coach at WVU saw me run and he approached me. I won a cross-country race in Morgantown against some of the girls he had been coaching. He saw my determination to be better and my toughness to keep going. He thought that was something that could be developed and I think we worked very well together," Santucci said

While attending West Virginia University, Clara became a 4-time All-American, twice in outdoor track, once in cross-country, and once in indoor track. Her coach at WVU, Sean Cleary, continues to coach her today.

"After graduation, I knew I wanted to continue running. I still had that Olympic dream and I felt like the marathon was going to be my event," Santucci said.

She's had an impressive professional marathon running career so far, with several races under her belt. She's been the third American finisher in Boston and she came in 6th place in Chicago. Racing a little closer to home, she experienced back to back marathon wins in Pittsburgh.

"The second time I came from behind to win in the last mile which was just a really good confidence booster. To know that you can bring it down to the last mile in such a long race and to hear everyone cheering for me was really exciting and felt really good. That was probably one of my favorites," Santucci said.

This year, she wants to add one more thing to her long list of achievements. She's preparing for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials on February 13th. This won't be her first time taking a shot at representing her country on the world's biggest athletic stage.

"The last Olympic trials I was 7th place, which was really good because that was only my second marathon," Santucci said.

While Santucci says that competing in the Olympics is currently at the top of her list of goals, with events like ultra marathons and triathlons, it's far from being the only thing on that list.

She will leave for Los Angeles, California on Wednesday. She'll have two full days to prepare before the marathon on Saturday. The top three finishers will make up the Olympic team. Clara hopes to be one of them, moving on to Rio coming from humble beginnings here in the Mountain State.



 
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