ROCHELLE — Karissa Clawson may be in her first year of track and field, but the 13-year-old eighth-grader from Sycamore has been raising the bar in the high jump all summer long with the Rochelle Area Track Club.
Originally a cross country athlete, Clawson joined the Sycamore Middle School track and field team in seventh grade, competing in the high jump and the 800-meter run. Clawson shined in her first season at Sycamore, finishing 11th in the IESA Class 7AA State Championships in high jump with a clearance of 4-7.
Looking to stay active this summer, Clawson signed up for the Rochelle Area Track Club. And after qualifying out of the USATF Illinois and USATF Region 7 Championships earlier this summer, Clawson earned the right to represent Sycamore and the RATC in the 2018 USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships at North Carolina A&T State University.
“I’m excited,” Clawson said. “There are going to be college recruiters there and I’ll be able to get a head start on everybody for college. Being there is really important to be because I can potentially end up on the Olympic team next year.”
Clawson finished fifth in the USATF Illinois Association Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships at Benedictine University in June. She cleared 4-5 in the high jump to advance to the USATF Region 7 Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships at Ball State University earlier this month. The eighth-grader surpassed 4-9 in the high jump to place second at the regional competition and earn her spot in the national championships.
“It was nerve-racking but it was exciting because I actually had competition,” Clawson said. “Usually it’s just me jumping by myself and I’d win, but now I can see what I can do and I want to push myself as far as I can go.”
The national championships at North Carolina A&T will run from July 23-29. Clawson was supported at the regional championships by her middle school coach Jennifer Dominguez, and when she competes later this month, she’ll be supported by her grandmother Nancie Morgan, a former high jumper who currently lives roughly an hour away from the host site of Greensboro. Clawson said her grandmother was her biggest motivator to pursue track and field.
“I did cross country in sixth grade but I was looking for another running sport,” Clawson said. “My grandmother was a high jumper so I wanted to try it. She convinced me to do track and field, and I’m really excited because she’s never seen me high jump before. That’s going to be a really big deal for me.”