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Prep track: Clinger's dominance places him among all-time Utah greats

Published March 15, 2017 12:07 pm

Prep track • American Fork senior wins national award.
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American Fork • Casey Clinger vividly recalls the dark early morning when he found out he had been named the Gatorade National Cross-Country Runner of the year.

The American Fork star was driving his Jeep to school when a police officer pulled him over. The frightened-looking senior was asked for insurance and registration then complied with a request to get out of the car.

As Clinger nervously watched, the officer, with a serious demeanor, searched the vehicle, eventually emerging with a suspicious looking dark package.

At that point, the officer pulled the cover off the national Gatorade trophy and handed it to the shocked athlete, who then celebrated with his family and teammates the accomplishment in a sport with 250,000 participants nationally.

That honor is just one of many for the 5-foot-11, 145-pound senior.

Look at Clinger's record over the years and the argument could be made that he deserves a place among Utah's most accomplished prep athletes in history.

He is the only boy to ever win consecutive Nike high school cross-country championships. He holds the freshman, sophomore and senior course state Class 5A records in cross-country and won the state individual 5A title twice.

As he prepares for his final track season, Clinger is the two-time defending 3,200- and 1,600-meter champion.

"Casey has a strong work ethic, a good training plan and some great training partners — Patrick Parker and McKay Johns, who are also All-Americans," Caveman coach Timo Mostert said.

Clinger said he spent most of his youth playing soccer and didn't try running until he was in ninth grade. It didn't take long to discover that he had a talent for distance running.

A typical workout for Clinger and his teammates includes a 7-mile run with two stride laps on the track, team stretching then weightlifting and a core workout. Mostert also believes in speed workouts.

Clinger's longtime teammates Parker and Johns, who will be joining him at BYU, said he has pushed them to be better.

"It's great to run with him," Johns said. "He makes all of us faster. He's a great guy."

Parker said that the Cavemen team, which has been among the best in the country the past few years, are good friends off the track. He also praised Mostert for his passion and expert training regiment, which helps the team stay healthy.

So why is American Fork among the best high school distance teams in the nation?

"We get some of our previous all-state and all-American runners to come back and visit with the team during the summer," Mostert said. "There has been a bit of continuity in our success, so the younger guys learn from the older boys, and our traditions and expectations get passed down. We've been blessed with great team captains over the past decade or so."

Clinger's discipline also seems to pay off away from the track. The Gatorade Award is not just about athletics. The American Fork star runner is an Eagle Scout, boasts a 4.0 grade-point average and volunteers at the Utah State Developmental Center, which assists people with intellectual disabilities.

Clinger said that he plays both the electric and acoustic guitar for fun, often jamming with his brothers.

The national award makes the American Fork star eligible for the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, which will be presented in July at a special ceremony before the ESPY Awards.

One can only imagine what trick the folks in American Fork might come up with if Clinger happened to win that honor.


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