Stanford Makes Mark on XC Team


Photo courtesy of the Athletic Department

Clayton Stanford, junior, stretches out in a race against Concord.

Abigail McGovern, Staff Writer

Clayton Stanford shifts from foot to foot over the number painted into the grass. He bounces on the balls of his feet. Jumps up and down to keep his muscles warm, eyes on the hill looming above him. Steady. Unfazed.

As the words of “runners take your mark” echo across the field, he shifts into position, adjusting his number with steady hands. The moment the gun sounds, he’s off, spikes tearing up grass as he races through the drifting cloud of dust and up the hill.

At this race, the Hornet Harrier Invitational hosted by Shenandoah University, the men’s cross country team came in seventh overall. Stanford was the first of Ferrum’s runners to cross the finish line, finishing 29th overall, with a time of 29:22.3. 

Stanford, a junior, has been running cross country and track and field competitively since he was in high school. This is his third year running for the Panthers, and he intends to continue as long as he is a student here.

“The season is going very well, and I am pretty satisfied with what I’ve achieved so far,” said Stanford. “But I am striving to be faster. My goal is to keep getting new PR’s until I graduate, and I am looking forward to running half marathons and marathons.” 

Stanford’s consistent work and attitude in competition and practice have not escaped the notice of his teammates. During the cross country season, Stanford runs 8ks, and during the track and field season, his chosen events are the long distance races, the 5k and the 10k.

“Not everyone can run those distances all year long,” said Mark White, head coach of the men and women’s cross country/track and field teams. “It takes a great mindset to keep focused for those long runs, not only in meets, but every day in practice. He is very, very focused.” 

Stanford’s teammates agree with this assessment of his character as an athlete. 

“Clayton is a model athlete that any coach would dream of having,” said Kevin Tate, senior, has been running for the Panthers since his Freshmen year. “He shows up everyday and gives 110% in everything he does and never questions anything. He definitely has outstanding class and is truly a leader.”

Stanford is from Franklin County and has been running competitively since high school, where he ran for the Franklin County High School team. He is a commuter at the college and is proud of the county he grew up in and the community he is a part of.

“Being a commuter sometimes makes it difficult to connect with things going on here on campus, but I really love Franklin County and Ferrum College,” said Stanford. 

Outside of cross country practice, Stanford approaches hobbies and academics with the same focus he does competition. 

He has a strong love for music and plays guitar to pursue that passion. He is currently taking lessons. 

“I have a deep love for great food, which kind of helps that I run all the time to burn off those calories,” he says.

Even with everything that goes into being a long-distance athlete—the passion, focus, and grit required to succeed—Stanford says that the best part of being on the team is the people around him. 

“My favorite part of being on the team is traveling to new places and the great people I have as teammates, and working with Coach White,” says Stanford.

It appears that Stanford has made a significant impact on the people around him as well, as they all echo his sentiment. 

“It’s been amazing running with Clayton! The kid pushes us everyday to be the best we can be. He’s our Ace and always works his tail off,” said Tate. “He is like a little brother to me, and that will never change.” 

White also speaks to the strength of Stanford’s character, both on the cross country course and in the normal course of life. 

“I’m very proud of Clayton,” White said. “He has a great work ethic that will carry him far, long after he is done as a collegiate runner!”

In the academic sphere, Stanford is a Pre-professional Health Science major. He says he has particularly enjoyed his Anatomy and Physiology class and work with cadavers.

Although he is still undecided, Stanford hopes to pursue a career-field in Forensic Pathology going forward.