Making a Contender: Claire Paci of Greencastle-Antrim

Every successful athlete has unique attributes that make them elite competitors. The Making a Contender series will showcase what makes some of the best Pennsylvania athletes.

Claire Paci, a junior from Greencastle-Antrim High School, began running in middle school to stay in shape for soccer but quickly realized her potential for long-distance running.

From countless state medals to two emerging elite national titles, Paci has proved to be one of the premier high school distance runners in Pennsylvania and nationally. Her success did not appear overnight. Instead, it came from hard work and consistent training.

Paci said, "I focus on training because everything adds up for the bigger goal, and I know my hard work will pay off."

The young star also expressed her appreciation to her family, coach, and former teammates for her success.

"My family encourages me, and I'm grateful for that," she stated. "My coach is super knowledgeable, and having people like Taryn (Taryn Parks, former PA State Champion now at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and Weber (Weber Long, former PA State Medalist now at Wake Forest University) to look up to is awesome."

For many runners, it may take years not to let the crowd at big races get to them, but Paci has managed to master this ability at a young age.

"I focus on breathing to get in the mentality of being there to race and not overthinking about time," she said.

You could write a textbook on Paci regarding her approach to training and competing, but it doesn't stop there. As a junior, she has already developed collegiate and pro-level habits regarding lifestyle. Focusing on "eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and resting every day."

Running isn't the only extracurricular Paci is involved with. She is a member of her school's Peer Leader organization, where she volunteers to make her school a better place. She is also a Big Buddy paired with a student from her elementary school to act as a mentor.

Paci is the definition of a contender in the sport of distance running and a very well-rounded individual. To young runners aspiring to be like her, she said, "trust the process; it's not an overnight thing, so enjoy it."

Paci has a range of impressive personal bests and accomplishments, but her achievements over the distance of one mile stand out above the rest. She has a personal best in the 1600-meter run of 4:54.77. She ran this at the 2022 PIAA 3A State Track and Field Championship to take second place, bettering her finish from the 2021 PIAA 3A State Track and Field Championship, where she took 8th place. At the national level, Paci has proved to be a contender at similar distances. During the 2022 indoor season, she took home not one but two first-place finishes in the emerging elite category at the New Balance Nationals Indoor meet. Respectively setting personal bests of 4:37.90 in the 1500-meter run and  4:56.77 in the one-mile run.

On the cross country course, Paci has similar accolades with a 5k personal best of 18:13.10, where she finished 2nd in the 28th Annual Carlisle Invitational, a highly competitive midseason meet in Pennsylvania. She also has a 4th place finish in the 2020 PIAA 3A State Cross Country Championship and a 7th place finish in the 2021 PIAA 3A State Cross Country Championship. Later on, in the 2021 cross country season, she finished 25th at the Eastbay Northeast Regional meet to cap off a solid sophomore campaign, further solidifying her status as a Pennsylvania contender.