Latter-day Saint runner Claire Seymour competes for Brigham Young University in the 800-meter race of the 2023 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Seymour claimed first team All-American honors in the event for the third consecutive year. (BYU Photo)
Three-peat All-American runner Claire Seymour is fueled by her trust in the Lord — and in her BYU coaches and teammates
Latter-day Saint athlete has overcome health challenges to successfully compete with the nation’s elite middle-distance runners.
By Jason Swensen
23 Mar 2023
Several words could aptly describe decorated Latter-day Saint middle-distance runner Claire Seymour.
The Brigham Young University All-American is, of course, fast.
She’s also tenacious — fighting frequent battles against both fellow runners and an autoimmune condition.
And she is tough. That’s a given for anyone who competes in the 800-meter race — a lung-incinerating event that demands an almost cruel combination of stamina and speed.
But the word consistent perhaps best describes Seymour, a senior on the Cougars’ track & field team.
Earlier this month at the 2023 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, Seymour claimed first team All-American honors for the third straight year. That places the Modesto, California, native in rarefied company at the Church-sponsored school. Only Cougar legends Shea Martinez Collinsworth and Lacey Cramer Bleazard have also recorded first team All-American three-peats in the 800-meter indoor nationals.
Seymour told Church Ball Magazine that her consistency is a byproduct of another defining word: Trust.
“I think the key to me being consistent comes from trusting my coach and my teammates — and also trusting in my body and knowing that what my body has done before, it can do again.”
BYU middle-distance runner Claire Seymour, left, and BYU women’s distance coach Diljeet Taylor share a quiet moment prior to Seymour competing in the 2023 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. (BYU Photo)
Seymour also discovers consistency in all aspects of her life by trusting in a higher power.
“I’m a big believer that our Savior wants what we want,” she said. “He has a timing and a plan for us — and things happen exactly as they are supposed to.”
Maturity and experience have taught Seymour another key lesson about divine trust:
“When things work out, it's really easy to say that God had a hand in that success. But it is a lot harder to see God’s hand when things don't work out. But in hindsight, I can see that God has been with me the whole time, during the ups — and the downs.”
As a team leader, Seymour also appreciates that others place trust in her as they navigate their own highs-and-lows in collegiate athletics. “It is a tender thing that other people might look at me and then think, ‘I can do it’.”
Being trusted, she added, “is both a compliment and a challenge.”
Mastering the daunting 800
Seymour can’t give a definitive answer on why she became a middle-distance runner. “Sometimes your event just chooses you,” she said, laughing.
Like most high school runners, Seymour initially wanted to be a sprinter. But she wasn’t quite explosive enough to be a top-end 100- or 200-meter athlete. So she focused on the 400-meter at Enochs High School.
Seymour was not exposed to sophisticated training as a prep athlete. “I barely worked out,” she remembered. But BYU women’s distance coach Diljeet Taylor spotted untapped potential in the young runner.
“When I was recruited by Coach Taylor, she told me I was going to run the 800-meter,” Seymour said. “I thought I could later convince her to have me run the 400. It did take me a long time to really love the 800 because it is so challenging.”
But Seymour trusted her coach — and now she has a collection of All-American awards in the 800-meter on her athlete bio.
“Without Coach Taylor — and without her confidence and trust in me — I definitely would not be where I'm at today,” she said. “Coach Taylor encourages us to rely on our Savior, and then pushes us to challenge ourselves on and off the track.”
Taylor remembers Seymour dealing with injuries and doubts even while she was learning the nuances of competing in the 800-meter. “But Claire remained consistent — and that consistency has been key to her success…. We had to silence the doubts and feed the faith.”
The coach added her young athlete also benefited from watching BYU teammates enjoying success after applying consistency. “That helped Claire to have the mentality to say, ‘Why not me?’.”
An All-American’s bumpy path
College athletes face the challenge of competing against other talented athletes, even while working toward a degree in the classroom. The recent pandemic only added to those challenges. But Seymour battles an additional, unwanted challenge.
Between her freshman and sophomore year at BYU, she was diagnosed with Graves disease — an autoimmune condition that causes the thyroid to become hyperactive.
“I didn’t know what was wrong with my body,” she said, remembering that confusing period prior to her diagnosis. “I was hot all the time. I was losing weight. I felt like my fitness was in the trash.”
Her mother, Ann Seymour, took her daughter to the ER when her heart rate began racing. Tests revealed Graves disease.
“I just cried,” she said. “I thought my running career was over.”
Seymour took a redshirt year from competition, allowing her to focus on restoring her health and reviving her spirit. “I considered hanging up the spikes and moving on.” But after much prayer and long discussions with her parents, Ann and John, she decided to keep competing.
Three consecutive All-American seasons would follow.
Latter-day Saint athlete Claire Seymour lifts trophy after running another All-American-winning 800-meter race in the 2023 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. (BYU Photo)
Seymour is grateful for wise doctors who have helped her manage her illness — and for trusted relatives, coaches and teammates who continue to be lifelines of support.
“And it has all been a testament to me that God wants what we want. Even though there will be hardships and heartaches and hurt, if we direct all of those things onto Him — and align our will with God’s will — we can deal with hard things.”
This spring, Seymour will don the BYU navy blue uniform for one final outdoor track season. “The biggest thing I'm hoping for this final season,” she said, “is to just have fun, enjoy it and to live up every moment.”
Seymour is still deciding if she will follow many of her former BYU teammates into the pro ranks. She has already claimed her undergraduate degree in exercise science and plans to become a physician assistant.
But athletically, she added, “I’m not closing any doors.”
Coach Taylor said Seymour has the athletic tools to compete professionally, adding that the young athlete could also become a threat in the 1,500-meter race.
“But my advice to women is always the same: follow your dreams and passions.”