High-SchoolGirl: Jonas Koolsbergen
December, 16, 2011
By Jon Mahoney | ESPN.com
Dustin SnipesCami Chapus (left) and Amy Weissenbach are two of the best runners in the country, and they happen to be teammates at Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.).This story originally appeared in the winter issue of ESPNHS Girl magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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Let’s just get this out of the way now -- Cami Chapus and Amy Weissenbach don’t like to compete against each other. They don’t spend the last period of every school day thinking of ways they can top one another at practice, nor are they devising training regimens for the sole purpose of beating each other at cross country or track meets.
The Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) seniors and best friends understand where the questions come from. After all, when you’re two of nation’s best runners and are on the same team, people are bound to wonder who is faster.
“We know what they’re good at, so it isn’t a burning question to see what they can do against each other,” says Harvard-Westlake track coach Jonas Koolsbergen.
But to them, it’s a non-story. For starters, they rarely run in the same individual track events. Cami competes in the 1,600 meters and the mile, while Amy focuses on the 800. And though they go up against each other in cross country, each focuses on clocking her personal best time or scoring points for her team, not on who can break the tape first. In their final state championship cross country race, the two crossed the finish line within a step of each other to place second and third. Cami had won the last two Division IV state titles.
“I’ve been asked so many times about competing against each other,” says Cami. “When people pit us against each other, it brings us closer together. We laugh about it.”
“People have tried to create competition between the two of us,” she says. “But we’ve had success in different events. We really want each other to do well.”
The mutual respect — and friendship — was born during their sophomore year, which is when the pair first got to know each other. They had met as freshmen but rarely practiced together as Amy only ran in three track meets because of a stress fracture in her left heel and didn’t compete in cross country.
But once Amy began watching Cami train on a daily basis, she saw someone who shared the same drive to be an elite runner.
“She has always been a great training partner,” says Amy. “I don’t think either of us would’ve had the same type of success if we didn’t have each other on the team.”
Amy and Cami use practice as a way to build off each other’s strengths. Cami is dominant at the longer distances, while Amy is an elite middle-distance performer.
“She’s definitely one of the main things that’s driven me forward and helped me improve,” says Cami.
Their work in practice has translated to considerable success on the track and the cross country trail, especially during last spring’s outdoor season.
Amy was named Gatorade National Track & Field Athlete of the Year after setting a high school federation record in the 800 with her first-place time of 2:02.04 at the state meet. It was her second consecutive state title in the event, and she later finished fourth in the 800 at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille, France, in July.
Meanwhile, Cami clocked the nation’s top time in the mile (4:42.71) with her win in the adidas Dream Mile in New York in June and recorded the nation’s No. 2 time (4:40.88) in the 1,600 with a first-place showing at state. She also competed at the World Youth Championships, where she finished fifth in the 1,500 in a time of 4:17.12, which was also the top time in the country last season.
Not suprisingly, pairing Cami and Amy together on relays produced explosive results for Harvard-Westlake. Last spring, as they improved, the duo combined with teammates for relay victories over various distances at major mid-season California meets like the Arcadia and Mt. SAC invitationals. Then in June, while in peak condition, Amy (1,200 meters) and Cami (1,600) bookended the greatest distance medley relay in prep history at New Balance Outdoor Nationals as they crushed the U.S. record by 9 seconds in 11:22.23 and beat the squad from five-time national cross country champion Fayetteville-Manlius (Manlius, N.Y.) while doing so.
After track season, Cami and Amy take advantage of the down time for some much-needed relaxation. So whether it’s heading out for a light jog, shopping at the mall or going out to dinner together, the pair likes to keep it low-key. That was certainly the case last summer when they took surfing lessons together in El Porto Beach at Manhattan Beach, Calif.
“It was so great just sitting in the ocean and not really worry about anything,” says Cami. “You need relief like that to come back and train hard again.”
And no, they didn’t try to out-surf each other, either.