Victoria Clinton had an usual detour to her summer vacation.
The Kaneland junior traveled to Brazil, but not for any sightseeing.
Clinton was a participant in the junior Pan-Am triathlon, finishing eighth in the international competition that featured an 800-yard swim, 12-mile bicycle race and three-mile run.
“The swimming [discipline] was the hardest part,” Clinton said. “We were swimming right in the ocean. There were all these girls fighting to get to the first buoy.”
Then again, the competitive zeal Clinton displayed in South America was a continuation of her state championship season the previous fall.
After finishing second by more than 15 seconds to Marengo senior Katie Adams at the Class 2A Belvidere Sectional, Clinton secured the first cross country championship in Kaneland history by becoming the sole runner to break 17 minutes in Peoria.
“Did I think she was going to be the state champion?” Kaneland coach Doug Ecker asked. “No, not really. She picked the right time to run her best race of the season.”
Clinton’s championship was indispensable to the Knights’ seventh-place showing in the team race.
“That was one of my goals: to be in the top three,” Clinton said. “Each day someone will have a good race. Mine came in the [state finals].”
Saturday at the Knights’ Eddington Invitational, Clinton began defense of her state championship. She had a slow start to the season after aggravating a hip injury while bicycle training.
“I fell off my bike,” she sheepishly admitted.
Originally slated to participate in the open division, Clinton ran in the varsity race instead.
Showing some rust, Clinton finished just outside the top 10 as the Knights placed third behind Geneva and Crystal Lake Central.
“I wanted to try and get back into it and feel my pace against some good competition,” Clinton said.
Brianna Bower is a fast-rising integral member of the Knights’ team. The sophomore led Kaneland with a fourth-place finish after complementing Clinton last fall at state with the Knights’ second-best performance.
“I get to run with [Clinton] every day at practice and on the weekends,” Bower said. “I think as the season goes we’re going to get healthier.”
Kaneland has secured yet another lofty ranking in various Internet polls, but Ecker has been around long enough to realize there are no guarantees.
“[Clinton] had the best race that day [at Peoria last fall],” Ecker said. “Things have changed. [Clinton] has grown [physically]. [State champions] don’t repeat very often.”
Clinton enters her slightly truncated season with well-grounded expectations. She is more concerned with her teammates’ welfare.
“Definitely as a team, we have some fast girls,” Clinton said. “I am hoping I can PR [set a new personal best] after [achieving that] last year [at state].”