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The long path to 1,000 – Hours in gym lead to success for ELC senior

By Staff | Jan 11, 2008

ESTHERVILLE — The Estherville Lincoln Central fans knew, but Christa Clayton didn’t.

Just 12 The ELC senior With every shot she took, the crowd cheered or groaned at the result.

Christa was puzzled by the groans.

“When I missed the crowd was like, ‘oohhh’, and I was thinking ‘What’s wrong? we’re still winning.'”

When she finally scored her 11th and 12th points of the night on a layup with 40 seconds left in the game to reach the milestone, the crowd erupted in cheers.

“It’s a big moment. I was glad to share it in the Estherville gym and do it in front of the home crowd,” Christa said.

The path to the milestone as well as leading this year’s team to a 12-2 record started at a very young age.

Christa said she first picked up a basketball at her baby sitter's, Lois Johnson.

“We used to shoot (baskets) in her driveway when I was 4 or 5.”

She and her classmates also took part in then-head coach Steve Loy’s Saturday morning basketball sessions for grades 3-6 and began an AAU team in fifth grade. The AAU team continued through eighth grade.

“We’d practice once or twice a week and go to tournaments on the weekend,” she said. “We had fun and won a lot of tournaments.”

She also spent hours playing H-O-R-S-E with her dad, Steve, in the driveway.

She clearly remembers when ELC went to state in 1999.

“I remember watching Lorrie Grems and Sarah Willey (now Stokes) the year we went to state. Dad told me to watch No. 14 (Willey). ‘That’s who you’re going to be like,’ he said.”

The success hasn’t come without hard work in the offseason.

Christa said she normally is at the Regional Wellness Center running, lifting weights and sometimes swimming or biking.

“I like to mix it up,” she said.

She also credits her teammates in helping her reach the milestone.

“I couldn’t do anything without my teammates,” adding that they’re what help drive her to become better.

Three seniors have been with Clayton most of her journey–Landra Lapka, Melanie Bandow and Kassie Heckard.

“Landra always keeps her head up even when she's not having a good game. She won’t give up.”

“Melanie brings good energy to our team and is a great shooter.”

Although Heckard doesn’t play much, Christa said, “She works hard in practice and gives great support to our team.”

Of the rest of her teammates, Christa said she is grateful to have a good junior class.

“They know what we expect this year,” she said.

Prior to her 1,000-point milestone, Christa cites a win over Spirit Lake in her freshman year as one of her highlights.

A week after losing by 30 points to the Indians, ELC defeated Spirit Lake in a district game.

Over the next two years, she’s enjoyed watching the Midgettes get better.

“It’s just been fun growing as a team and getting better each year,” she said. “Coach Leonard has taught me so much. He’s helped us grow as players and individuals.”