Thursday February 20, 2014 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
ATTEA TO DAYTON — Immaculata senior Claire Attea celebrates the singing of her letter of intent with the University of Dayton, as she sits alongside her parents, Brian and Jenny Attea. Also pictured are two of her coaches, Laura Munson and Ed Bogdan. IA head coach Charlie Planz was away on vacation. Photo by Michael Petro.
Claire Attea’s senior year of cross-country didn’t go as she imagined it might.
She got sick early on in the school year and smack dab in the middle of the cross-country season and wasn’t able to perform as she had hoped or head coach Charlie Planz projected she would, at her full potential.
Attea missed a few races and in the ones she did run, her times were not at the bar she had set for herself. But her perseverance never waned.
She got stronger down the stretch and as Immaculata’s third-fastest runner, Attea helped the team to an All-Catholic title. It may not have worked out as originally planned, but she felt like a better runner, and person, for the experience.
“I had all of these goals that we had talked about in the beginning; we had everything planned out perfectly, and then none of that ended up working,” Attea said. “It kind of taught me a lot about how everything doesn’t go your way in life. You’re going to have to keep moving on and trying no matter what. It gave me a sense of reality because in past years, everything just worked out.”
A valuable lesson learned, and one she’ll take with her to the University of Dayton. A disappointing fall season did not slow Attea from being recruited at a high level.
On Feb. 13, Attea made it official that she’s signed to attend the Division I college in Ohio for cross-country and track and field, during a ceremony at the private school in Hamburg.
“I think that will help me in college because I feel more prepared for any challenges ahead,” Attea noted.
She chose between a trio of Atlantic 10 schools, including Saint Bonaventure, where her parents, Brian and Jenny Attea, both went to college, and Drexel. Attea said she went to visit Dayton and felt more at home there than any other place. She also intends to major in Dayton’s biology program.
“It reminded me of my Immaculata team, because that’s like a family and I got that same feel too from Dayton,” Attea said. “The coaches were really nice to me and they already had plans of how they would help me to improve when I got there.
Coming to know the type of individual she is, Planz was confident he could still count on Attea to run the best she could, even when that was tested in the fall.
“Even after what happened to her, she maintained composure and stayed focused to help us win All-Catholics,” Planz said. “She was running but not up to her potential. She has not reached anywhere near her potential yet. I can’t wait to see what she can accomplish in college.”
Attea is used to deviating from a plan and making the best of it. She said running was never something she was planning to do when she first arrived at Immaculata. Her and younger sister, Grace, played soccer growing up. But a persuasive Planz got both sisters to take a chance on running.
‘It’s become such a big part of my life,” Claire Attea said. “It’s helped me be more determined and persistent, even in school. And the team has become my closest friends. It’s basically become my life.”
Attea said she was pushed early on by Planz, who convinced her that, “We all have the potential to become whatever we want to be, we just have to believe” and “pain is temporary and pride is forever.” Attea remembered those lines every time she got to the start of a race.
Attea put in many miles over the summer, which has paid off in her development. Planz said he saw the potential in Attea, and he worked with her to improve.
“She’s stayed focused on the running end of it,” Planz said. “She ran this winter, in our first season of indoor, and did well in the 600 meters, as well as the distances. With her speed, she can hold her own in any race.”
Immaculata offered track and field in the winter for the first time, and Attea believes it’s paid off, by keeping her mentally and physically ready to compete. Usually, she would be spending the winters training on her own, but was unable to keep up with the competitive end of racing.
“So much of running is mental and I felt like I just had this huge break and I had to start over in the spring,” Attea said. “I raced so much this winter that I never really lost that competitive edge and I’ll be more prepared this spring.”
Attea has also been a part of a renaissance of sorts for running and track and field at the school, under Planz, a Long Island transplant. She’ll be the third runner in recent years to go off to a Division I school. Immaculata has also won several titles in cross-country and outdoor track and field in that time.
“Our cross-country team started so small and we made it such a big part of our school now,” Attea said. “The indoor track team, it may have been the first year but we competed against some of the biggest schools and we still held our own. I was a little apprehensive about winter track but it was something I enjoyed. I’m really excited to continue with it in college.”
Planz added what’s made his experience at Immaculata so unbelievable has been the dedication and commitment of student-athletes like Attea to everything they do.