PORT BYRON -- The conversation starts with some humor, asking Riverdale runners Emily and Lauren Claus if they are related to Santa.|
Neither are amused.
"We get that a lot," Emily says.
With that out of the way, the focus shifts to what makes the last name more unique than sharing it with the holiday character. Four members of the Riverdale boys' and girls' track team are a Claus, with three families represented. Talking about that gets this group animated.
"It's really cool," Emily, a junior, says. "We're related. We're kind of the 'Four Amigos.'"
Considering the number of people named Claus near Port Byron and the surrounding area, this really is not surprising.
"When we have a family reunion, there's over 100 people who show up," said James Claus, whose son, Kevin, is a Riverdale junior distance runner. "If they're named Claus in the Quad-Cities, we're related."
So it comes as no shock Emily, Lauren, Kevin and freshman hurdler Eric Claus not only are related, but also teammates. Around these parts, Claus is more than a holiday name -- it's a large group.
"It's pretty cool," Lauren, a sophomore, said. "Not a lot of people have families like this."
For the record, Emily and Eric are the lone siblings. Kevin and Lauren -- along with Emily and Eric -- are all second cousins as each of their respective fathers are first cousins.
Before the quartet all made it to high school, there was not much a relationship between them other than the last name. Emily and Eric obviously were close, but it took track for them to construct a bond that all agree is getting stronger by the day.
Track is a sport that offers stories such as this one. A few years ago, the Monmouth-Roseville girls' track team had three-fourths of a 4x400-meter relay named Gillen. During Alleman's Sailer Invitational last week, Annawan-Wethersfield's title-winning 4x200 relay had three legs run by a Thomson.
This group, however, offers a compelling twist with three families represented.
"It shows how many different varieites of Clauses there are in a small town," Kevin said. "The one thing we share is the last name."
Because of that, there is a support system within the team.
"You'll always know that you'll have family in school besides family at home," Eric said. "You'll always have each other."
Sometimes, it offers some light-hearted moments.
"Every time we get ready for a race, I'll say, 'Good luck, Cuz,'" Lauren said. "We always say that."
After the race provides laughter on some occasions.
"Sometimes it gets confusing because they don't specify which Claus (finished in their respective event). Sometimes they get them mixed up," Emily said. "One time, I ran something and they said Lauren's name."
When four members of a team share the same last name, that stuff tends to happen.
"It gets kind of confusing when someone says, 'Hey, Claus' and you turn your head and they meant the other one," Eric said. "It's also the same way in school."
They will accept the those moments knowing what this experience means.
"This brings us together more," Lauren said.
Above everything, that's what makes this experience something each cherish. They may get the Santa Claus jokes from time to time, but dealing with that is easier when a practice or meet rolls around.
During that time is when being a Claus has its benefits.
"We didn't know each other before," Eric said. "To change that through something like track, that adds another closeness that you didn't have before."
Conference track preview capsule
Western Big 6 Conference girls' meet- When: 4 p.m. today
- Where: Soule Bowl, East Moline
- Defending champion: Rock Island
- FYI: The Rocks look to win their second consecutive and league-leading 24th title. ... United Township coach Andrew Round says senior Halle Lewis will compete tonight. Lewis, the reigning Big 6 triple jump champion, has dealt with a recent knee injury. ... Rocky senior sprinter Jalea Jackson (leg) will compete tonight for the first time since suffering the injury on April 14. ... The only time Moline or Rocky did not win the league title was 1984. UT won it that year.
Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference girls' meet- Where: 4 p.m. today
- Where: Streator High School
- Defending champion: Geneseo
- FYI: Last year, the meet meet started at Maple Park Kaneland before being move to Sycamore with five events left. The move was made because the lights at Kaneland would not work. ... The Maple Leafs have won their last three meet titles since April 21. ... Geneseo senior and Iowa State signee Kaci Storm is the reigning conference champion in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
Lincoln Trail Conference coed meet- When: 3:30 p.m. today
- Where: Wethersfield High School, Kewanee
- Defending boys' champion: Mercer County
- Defending girls' champion: Annawan-Wethersfield
- FYI: Annawan-Wethersfield looks for senior Erica Dynes (100- and 200-meter dashes) and junior Sara Fisher (100 and 300 hurdles) to repeat as conference champions. ... The Titans were the conference champions in the 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 relays last year. ... Mercer County senior Miranda Biddle was the 1600 and 3200 champion last year. ... In last year's boys' meet, Mercer County set league records in the 4x100 and 4x200.
Three Rivers Conference girls' meet
- When: 4 p.m. today- Where: Bureau Valley High School, Manlius
- Defending champion: Erie-Prophetstown
- FYI: Depth in every event should help the Panthers repeat as conference champion. ... Erie-Prophetstown coach Don Robinson is seeking his 22nd conference crown in his 35th season. ... Riverdale senior Allison Smith will be unable to defend her 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and long jump titles. Smith had an appendectomy last Saturday. ... Kewanee junior Freya Block looks to repeat as the league shot put and discus champion.
West Central Conference coed meet
- When: 3:30 p.m. today
- Where: Macomb High School- Defending boys' champion: Illini West
- Defending girls' champion: Sherrard
- FYI: Sherrard has won 10 consecutive Olympic/West Central titles. ... Rockridge looks to win the boys' title on the strength of its depth. ... Sherrard's Danielle Crawley (100, 200, 400) and Robbie Anne Hoye (1600), Rockridge's Devin Hasson (100 and 300 hurdles), Monmouth-Roseville's Ciara Marlow (triple jump) and Orion's Ashley Anderson (800) are returning conference champions. ... Rockridge's T.J. Henry looks to repeat in the high jump. ... Monmouth-Roseville should contend for 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 titles in the boys' meet.
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