Girls Track: Young’s Claire Kieger sprinting to successClaire Kieger leads the field for Young in the 4x200 meter relay. Patrick Gleason ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 4, 2012 7:54PM
Though she’s only been attending Young for two years, senior Claire Kieger fits right in with the Dolphins girls track team.
“My teammates always make fun of the face I get,” Kieger said. “I get a really mad face. [They say,] ‘You’re not really mean though. You’re so nice.’
“It’s just a face, a track face.”
The truth is, Keiger actually has plenty to smile about as her high school career winds down. She has emerged as a steady and versatile veteran leader for Young, which competes in the Public League finals Saturday at Hanson Stadium. It’s been an interesting journey for an athlete who has gone through plenty of changes in the past few years.
Kieger started her high school running career at Schurz, competing in cross country and track as a freshman and in cross country as a sophomore. She then moved to Minnesota for a semester, where she was a member of state champion relay teams in the 400 and 800 meters.
Returning to Chicago for her junior year, Kieger reached out to Bob Geiger, who then coached both cross country and track at Young (he has since stepped down as track coach). “She was interested in running cross country,” Geiger said. “I saw some of her sprint times and I was like, ‘No cross country for you.’ ’’
Though Geiger believes Kieger was talented enough to make Young’s top seven in cross country, he saw a brighter future for her if she focused on track training.
That vision has been realized. Kieger is the No. 2 qualifier in the 200 for the Public League finals behind Lindblom’s Shamier Little and qualified fourth in the 100 hurdles. She also has been an integral member of Young’s qualifying 400 and 800 relay teams.
While Geiger had the foresight to have Kieger train for the sprints, he admits he didn’t initially realize her aptitude for the hurdles. As such, that event remains a work in progress.
“I’ve still got to get that first hurdle down,” Kieger said earlier this spring. “I just started [running the event] so it’s a little scary. ... That first hurdle just keeps getting me.”
But coaches at the University of Illinois apparently weren’t scared off by her lack of experience. Instead, they seem to see Kieger’s potential and she intends to join the Illini as a preferred walk-on.
It’s all worked out well for the runner, who has found a welcoming home at Young. “I’m really happy the girls took to me ... because I transferred here junior year,” Kieger said. “They’re like my family.”
A family that’s not above a little good-natured kidding, apparently.