Grace Reagan has a place of honor in Clinton High athletics. As a freshman last year, she was the youngest starter on the most successful Lady Dark Horse soccer team ever, and she was named Most Valuable Player on the cross country team.
Grace moved here from Chapel Hill and seemed to immediately fit in once she stepped onto the field at Darkness stadium.
She also plays on the Clinton travel soccer team, as do most of the other girls on the high school team. “I began in the rec league and moved my way up to challenge and classic and then I moved here,” she said.
And like most of the other girls on the Dark Horse team, Grace is a member of Clinton’s cross country team, and the county swim team, but she admits that out of the three, soccer is her favorite sport.
“I guess I like soccer best because it’s a team sport and I don’t have to rely on myself. Everyone makes mistakes, so if I make a mistake I can count on my teammates,” she explained.
Was she nervous being a freshman starter? “There was pressure, obviously, but it felt good that my coaches could trust me with that responsibility,” she attested.
Her favorite memory from last season was when she scored a net against Whiteville.
“It was the pre-season. Leah Cashwell had a free kick and I got it and scored from about the 18. It felt really good and all my teammates congratulated me,” Grace recalled, smiling as she recalled the score.
Before coming to Clinton, the teen was a defender and never got a chance at scoring. For Clinton, Grace is a right wing at mid-field.
She described her position this way: “Basically, we’re an outlet for defenders and we also typically cross the ball so strikers can score. We take the ball down the side of the field and then kick it in the air to the center near the goal so the strikers can finish it (score).”
So has anyone ever scored off her kick? “We’ve done it a couple of times, but this is my first year playing that position and I have a lot to learn,” she acknowledged.
Grace believes her proficiency on the soccer field comes from a couple of sources. “I have this strong desire to win and play really hard for my team. My coaches have a lot of drive and they teach us to be team players and that has been instilled in me,” she asserted.
There is also a lot of practice. In the summer, it’s two times a week, and during the school season soccer practice is every day there isn’t a game. During travel season, the girls practice three times week.
Reagan said she also juggles a soccer ball around the house just for the fun of it, and goes on runs through her neighborhood to stay in shape when there is no practice.
On the run
Speaking of running, Grace said she only joined the cross country team because many of her soccer buddies were members, but soon found that she had a flair for running the 5K.
“I joined cross country because of pressure from my soccer teammates, but once I started, I really liked it. I kind of have a knack for running. I started young with an elementary school program in Chapel Hill called Girls on the Run,” Grace explained.
She said college-aged students led the after-school class and they would do fun lessons and activities, as well as build up to a 5K run. Its purpose was to show the importance of exercise and ways to make it fun, according to Grace.
The teen said she can run the 5K in a little over 20 minutes in competition.
“I feel like running is easy for me. It’s instinct, so you don’t have to really think about doing it, and it takes my mind off the excruciating… whatever,” she said with a wave of her hand.
She came in first in a meet at North Side and second in a meet at Richlands. She was 11th in the conference and made the All-Conference team.
Her best memory from cross country competitions was her second place finish because she was able to beat out Swansboro.
“They had some really good runners,” Grace declared. “I had never beaten one of the Swansboro runners before and it felt good to beat her. That time I was really determined,” she said with a smile.
Grace joined the swim team, too, after her soccer mates insisted. “I swim because I had some pressure from the soccer girls to join the team,” she admitted. “It’s fun and I get to hang out with my friends and be in the pool.”
Jokingly, she said her best memory from swimming was jumping in the hot tub.
So has being an athlete taught her anything about being successful in other aspects of her life?
Grace nodded and said, “I think I’ve learned how to work together with people a lot better and to adjust to people’s personalities.”
As for advice from her coaches, Grace said, “They all tell me not to be so critical about myself, but they also say they like my desire to win. I get down on myself too much. That’s where running helps, because it takes my mind off stuff like that,” the teen stated.
Her parents, Tammy and Robert Reagan, support her all the way and go to her competitions. “They really encourage me and build me up when I get down on myself,” she acknowledged.
In academics, Grace was on the Principal’s List last year and got a theater arts class award. She said her other interests include hanging out with her friends and reading. Her favorite author is Francine Rivers, who writes Christian-based novels.
Two of the biggest influences in her life are her siblings, sister Taylor, who is 22 and lives in Raleigh, and brother Will, a rising junior at CHS.
“Taylor is my role model because she lives a life that honors God, and that’s admirable. My brother Will has such a strong work ethic and so I guess that drives me to be more like him, too,” she explained.
Her ambition is to become a pediatrician like the doctors she had growing up. “I really want to help kids,” she said.