There's no place like home for Clement

August 11, 2011|By ANDREW MASON |
  • Tony Clement gives two thumbs up as he cruises to victory at the Nick Adenhart 5K in Williamsport earlier this summer.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Tony Clement has come a long way to get back to where he started.

The former Hagerstown Community College star athlete is now an assistant coach and fitness-center associate at HCC. And he’s quickly regained his status as the top runner in Washington County.

“I didn’t know anything about track or cross country when I first came here,” said the 24-year-old Clement, whose running career didn’t begin until late in the spring of his senior year at Windber (Pa.) High School in 2005. “You can develop everything you need at this college, from athletics to academics. I owe everything I have to HCC. This was such an influential place. I feel lucky.”

Clement developed rapidly with the Hawks, graduating in 2007 as a three-time NJCAA All-American with a full ride to the University of Oklahoma.

He had no problem keeping pace with the Sooners in the NCAA Division I ranks. He graduated from Oklahoma in 2010 with multiple All-Big 12 Conference honors, having left his mark on the university’s all-time track performance lists.

In Oklahoma history, Clement currently ranks No. 2 at 1,000 meters (2:24.08), No. 4 in the mile (4:03.43) and No. 5 in the 800 (1:50.10) indoors, and No. 10 in the 1,500 (3:47.06) outdoors.

He saw the country — and returned to Washington County.

“This was my second home when I left,” said Clement, who lives in Williamsport. “I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”

After being sidelined with foot issues from August of 2010 to March of this year, he’s been on a tear, having won seven  area races. He was the overall champion at the Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) Half Marathon on May 14; the Race Against Poverty 5K in Chambersburg, Pa., on June 3; the Nick Adenhart 5K in Williamsport on June 11; the Ausherman Series cross country 2-miler in Greencastle, Pa., on June 14; the Hancock Bash Dash 1-Mile Road Race on June 18; the Run for Freedom 5K in Williamsport on July 4; and the Race for the Nation 5K in Chambersburg last Saturday.

On Friday, he plans to run the Krumpe’s Donut Alley Rally 5K in Hagerstown.

“I’ve just been going race to race, one step at a time, just trying to build a base,” said Clement, who’s been logging about 70 miles a week in training. “It’s not like I’m racing at a really high level, and there hasn’t really been anyone to push me. But it’s been a lot of fun.”

His top performance of the summer was probably at the Fourth of July 5K in Williamsport, where he cruised to victory in a course-record time of 15 minutes, 24 seconds.

He hopes to run significantly faster in the future — and leave the comfort zone of local road races for a return to the track.

“Running 15:30 5Ks is nowhere near where I want to be. I feel like there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” said Clement, who still is dealing with some foot issues, the root of which seems to be biomechanical. “I just need to keep getting stronger and fix this (foot problem) and maybe step back on the track this spring. ... There is a plan, and I’m taking it slowly.”

He still has dreams of joining the exclusively elite sub-4:00 club in the mile and making a splash on the national scene.

“I’m only two years out from running 4:03, and I don’t think I was at my peak when I ran 4:03,” he said. “I remember the day I ran 4:03, I wasn’t happy about it. ... Now I have my mid-20s to figure it out.

“Ambition is hard to kill. There’s a light on inside me all the time. I’ve surprised myself so many times in my career, maybe I can surprise myself again. ... I know there’ll be a day I wake up and won’t be able to run, and that’s why I want to make the most of it while I can.”

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