Baron Athletics

Claire Walters Hits Her Stride

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Baron Athletics

Claire Walters Hits Her Stride

Claire Walters shatters record after record during her time as a Franciscan athlete.

Winter 2023

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At the NCAA Division III National Championship on November 19, Franciscan University’s Claire Walters overcame frigid windchills and icy conditions to finish 19th out of 293 runners, earn All-American honors, and smash a few Baron records along the way.

Becoming the highest finisher ever for the Barons at the National Championship, she also joins Grace Galligan ’18 as the second All-American in Franciscan women’s cross country history. In the Division III era, she is only the fifth across all sports at Franciscan to win All-American honors. In addition to Galligan, previous Franciscan athletes who accomplished this include Liam Galligan ’21 in men’s cross country, Bill Jones ’13 in men’s track and field, and Leo Herrmann ’17 in men’s soccer.

As Walters piles up awards and leaves a trail of shattered records in her wake, it’s hard to believe she’s still only a junior.

“Claire is an immensely talented runner,” said Dr. Dan Kuebler, head coach for men’s and women’s cross country. “The scary thing is that she is just starting to reach her potential.”

Walters credits her big brother, Joe, a competitive runner in high school, with inspiring her to pick up the sport when she was still in middle school.

“I just fell in love with the team environment, the whole atmosphere, and the Christian values that are embedded in it, like sacrificing yourself for the team,” she said.

Walters has definitely hit her stride since transferring to Franciscan last year from North Carolina State, a Division I school that won two ACC Championships and an NCAA National Championship while she was there. In her first season at Franciscan in 2022, she won the Baron’s first meet, the Fisher Invite. She finished second at the Paul Short Invite at Lehigh, marking the first time she broke the program record for fastest time. After breaking her own record at last November’s NCAA Great Lakes Regional Meet, she now holds the Baron 6K race fastest time of 21:06:0. Finally, not only did she win the PAC Championship, but she was also named PAC Runner of the Year.

Those who know her say that Walters has fully embraced student life. During the season, she usually begins her day at 5:45 a.m. with weightlifting and 6:30 a.m. Mass and then dives into a full schedule of classes, training, and competitions. She also joined the Stella Mariae Household.

Walters is most grateful for the support from her family, her teammates, who are “like one big family,” and her coaches, who helped her as a person, student, and athlete. For her, being on the women’s cross country team is about more than winning races.

“It’s a great way for me to connect to my faith,” she said. “It’s not always about you. We all offer up our races for different intentions each week. I just love that.”

“The women’s cross country team has always enjoyed meaningful bonding rooted not only in their sport but also in virtuous, Christ-based friendships,” said Father Gregory Plow, TOR MSA ’11, chaplain for men’s and women’s cross country. “Claire came in as a junior transfer and immediately contributed to and benefited from these friendships.”

“She has without a doubt found a home at Franciscan and is proud to wear a uniform representing the University,” said Carlo Fabian, assistant women’s cross country coach. “Her future is bright here at Franciscan, on and off the course.”


Claire Walters

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