Redbank Valley’s Claire Clouse Running Toward Her Life Goals at Waynesburg University :: exploreClarion.com

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — When Claire Clouse is running, she feels free.

(Photo by Madison McFarland)

The Redbank Valley senior can sort out her thoughts while on the track, or just empty her head of everything.

It’s calming — and something she wasn’t ready to give up.

“I love to run,” Clouse said. “I’m either thinking about everything – or absolutely nothing. Running has always been my therapy. My getaway.”

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Clouse is ready for another getaway, a chance to break free from high school and begin the next chapter of her life at Waynesburg University.

She will run track there — she made her intentions this past week.

Clouse, who also was a starter and key member of the Redbank Valley girls basketball team that won the District 9 Class 3A title, hasn’t ruled out playing basketball at Waynesburg as well someday.

“No matter what sport I decided to do, I don’t think I could have gone to college and just done college,” Clouse said. “Doing sports through high school kept me in order. It gave me structure. I think I need that.”

Clouse became fast friends with another Waynesburg recruit, Maeve Hanley, of Punxsutawney.

In the fall, Clouse had already made up her mind about going to Waynesburg, and Hanley was still undecided. The two began talking and had an instant connection.

When Hanley chose to attend Waynesburg to play golf, the two decided to become roommates.

Hanley was also a standout basketball player and ran track for the Chucks. She and Clouse have discussed walking on to the Yellow Jackets’ basketball team in the future.

“We became instantly best friends. We were both in the nursing program,” Clouse said. “We both have a small-town story. So we’re like, ‘Hey, do you want to be roommates?’ I’m going two and a half hours away for school. It’s out there. It’ll be nice not being out there by myself.”

Clouse began playing basketball in kindergarten, and the sport has always been a big part of her life, too. She did the dirty work for the Bulldogs’ girls basketball team, playing tough defense, getting steals and rebounds, and adding key baskets for a team that excelled this winter.

On the track this spring, she was a sprinter and will likely do that again at Waynesburg.

The thing Clouse likes about both sports is how different they are.

“Honestly, I don’t even know which one is my favorite,” Clouse said. “I love track because I love running. I love basketball because it’s more of a team effort. They’re just so different. They’re complete opposites. I know people who went from volleyball to basketball, and they are just exhausted and worn out. I never really had that because I was leaving one thing and going into something completely different.”

Clouse added another D9 title to her resumé this spring as part of a girls’ track and field team at Redbank that won the first district crown in school history.

That came down to the final event at the championships in Brookville — the 4×400 relay. When Redbank clinched the championship, only six members of the team remained at the track late on a muggy night: the four members of the relay, senior Ryley Pago and Clouse.

“It was honestly something that I will never forget,” Clouse said. “It was just the six of us, and it was really cool to be there.”

Clouse went to the PIAA Track and Field Championships — not to compete, but to cheer on her classmates who qualified for the meet.

She was one of the loudest voices when freshman Mylee Harmon won the state title in the 400-meter run.

“Qualifying for states always seemed impossible to me,” Clouse said. “But being able to watch people I care about go there and supporting them was important to me because I know how it would feel if I was in that situation and they were there supporting me.”

Clouse hopes to make a mark on the track and field team at Waynesburg.

She already has her life after college mapped out.

She will carry a dual major in nursing and business. It will give her a great deal of flexibility when she graduates.

“When I graduate, I want to become a travel nurse for four or five years,” Clouse said. “Until I’m sick of it, honestly. Then, when I’m ready to settle down and have a family, I can either go back to get my master’s for something I’m really interested in the medical field, or I can do a whole bunch of things in the medical field that are business-related. Having a second degree will give me a lot to fall back on. I have lots of options.”

Clouse has had that plan for quite some time, which belies her indecisiveness on most other things, she said.

“I change my mind on things every day,” she said, chuckling. “I have to be the most indecisive person I know. It’s been five years and I’ve had this plan. It’s real life now. I haven’t changed my mind, so I guess that’s a good sign.”

Clouse will finally graduate this week — a teacher’s strike at Redbank Valley in the fall pushed the school calendar back.

With her future mapped out, she’s ready to tackle it head-on.

No regrets. No looking back.

Just running. Free.

“Everyone’s shed a tear, and I don’t even think I’ve thought about a tear,” Clouse said. “High school’s been good to me for a long time, but I’ve been ready for my new start, my new beginning, new friends, new people, new challenges. Just new everything. I’m excited.”

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