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YHS sophomore cross country sensation Clover Cicoletti

Yosemite High Cross Country Runner Breaking Records

OAKHURST — In just her first season of high school competition, Clover Cicoletti, a sophomore at Yosemite High School, is dashing her way to the top of the Central California cross country world.

Clover, 15, whose family lives in North Fork, may be a newcomer to cross country but she has attracted a lot of attention at races across the Central Valley this season.

Clover (left) with teammate Jaiden Stansberry

“She just set a new school record of 18 minutes, 9 seconds, which breaks the old record by almost a minute (the previous record was 19:03),” says Kim Lawhon, head coach of the Badger cross country team.

Lawhon, a 6th and 7th grade teacher at Coarsegold Elementary, is in her fourth season as YHS head coach. She has nothing but praise for her young star with the unusual name.

“Clover is just super humble. She’s never going to brag about herself, ever. Clover leads by example,” Lawhon says.

Clover handily won this season’s freshman/sophomore division at the Sanger Invitational — and also placed first at the small school varsity race at the Clovis West Golden Eagle Invitational and the Sierra Pacific Golden Bear Invitational.

“She now has the third-fastest female time in the Central Valley,” Lawhon says. “Her’s is a very inspiring story for young runners.”

Lawhon says before this season started, Clover was hesitant to come out for the cross country team. “She didn’t think she was going to be good at it.”

But it turns out Clover is good at covering the 3-mile cross country course — very good. Also a swimmer and triathlete, she will be in action Friday (Oct. 18) in Fresno’s Woodward Park, taking part with the rest of the YHS team at the Roughrider Invitational.

Clover will be among the top runners this weekend — and at the state meet, which will also be held at Woodward Park on Nov. 30.

The YHS girls cross country team

Coach Lawhon, a YHS grad and former standout runner for longtime YHS Coach Ellen Petersen’s cross country teams, says the young star’s “enthusiasm” has been contagious.

“She’s got the best work ethic I’ve ever seen and I think that’s what’s really changed the team,” Lawhon says. “I feel really lucky to be coaching a team with so much overall talent.”

“Before I started cross country, I would run on my own time just for fun and training for the June lake triathlon,” Clover says. “I knew other girls on the cross country team that were fast and assumed that they were faster than me, so when I first beat them I was surprised.”

Clover says the best thing about competing in cross country “is the feeling I get when I’m running. I feel free, focused and powerful. I think some people refer to it as ‘runner’s high.'”

“Another favorite part about being on the cross country team,” she adds, “is my teammates and coaches. We motivate each other to push the limits.”

So far, the YHS team is having an epic year. “The entire girls’ team’s season is going incredible,” Lawhon says. “Jocelyn Stansberry is a junior who lives in Yosemite and trained hard all summer and set the school record as her target last year as our number one runner. She and (junior) Emily Rich have continued to pull their times down and are both in the mid-19 minute range.”

The YHS boys team (from left) Sam Sloas, Justin Beaumont, Turner Williams and Sebastian Valdez (team member Owen Stanley not pictured)

Lawhon says the other girls on the team also “have followed with major drops in times this year too.”

And this season’s pace-setting performances by the girls have meant that the top boys on the YHS cross country team “have not been able to let up at all, especially with Clover right behind them at all practices,” Lawhon says.

Turner Williams, a sophomore, is close to dropping into the 15-minute range for a 5k, Lawhon reports, and should make it by the end of the year.. “He is now among the top four runners in school history.”

And sophomore runner Sebastian Valdez is right behind him, clocking a 16:59 5K at a meet this past Friday.

And first year runner Kia Hansen, a YHS senior, “just ran a 17:07 in his second race ever,” Coach Lawhon says.

For Clover, the goal for this season is to get under 19 minutes on the Woodward Park cross country course.

“If I have the opportunity, I would love pursue cross country in college,” she says. “If not, I can still see myself running throughout my life.”

And what’s the story behind her unusual name?

YHS sophomore sensation Clover Cicoletti

“My name came from my sister,” Clover explains. “When my mom was pregnant with me, she asked my 5-year-old sister for name suggestions. Evy, my sister, looked around the back yard where they were sitting and said, ‘Let’s name her Clover!’ My mom wasn’t sure at first but Evy kept insisting until the day I was born. And that became my name.”

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