This is Sideline Stories. A platform where NE10 student-athletes can share their collegiate experiences in an unfiltered environment - using their voices to promote growth and positive change in our league and overall in NCAA Division II athletics.
Clement Paillon, a freshman on the American International cross country and track & field teams, is originally from France and made a big move overseas to compete as a student-athlete. Though he has faced adversity due to injury, he has found strength in his teammates. He shares his thoughts in this edition of Sideline Stories:
Paillon, originally from Brussieu, France, enjoys Thanksgiving break in Washington, D.C.
I have been thinking for a while about coming to America and living my American Dream; since August, my dream has become true. I had been training for 13 years in France and I decided to leave.
Being an athlete here is just wonderful, combining studies and training are the perfect way for a young student to achieve his dreams. To me, I’ve got great dreams, but I learned here to think with NO LIMITS, and this culture of leadership is maybe the most important thing that I have learned here. It makes me confident and grateful as an athlete.
Why did I choose AIC? I got two different offers, one coming from Fort Hays State University in Kansas and one from AIC. I chose this university for many reasons. For one, we have a really talented group with many hardworking student-athletes.
I preferred AIC for its location as well, only one hour away from Boston and three hours from New York; it’s always better when I would like to travel. Also, I have a good relationship with Coach Mayo, he believes in me and I believe in him to make me better. I will also have the opportunity to run in very competitive races; I will have the chance to run at the Penn Relays and Texas Relays.
Paillon spends a weekend in Boston with teammates Ryan LaFrance, Katie Olding and Benoit Campion.
The sports program in France is totally different than here in the USA. There are only clubs, so we are competing by representing our club and not our university. We do not have the same facilities or the ability to focus solely on training and competitions. That is why I wanted to be a student-athlete, I want to get better and to achieve it I needed to change my training and way of life.
My unforgettable moment here since I arrived is obviously the NE10 cross country title achieved in Jamesville, New York. AIC hadn’t won since 2016, and unfortunately I got injured during the week before the race so I couldn’t help my teammates except by screaming and supporting them from the starting line until the finish line. I lost my voice on this day!
I learned about true team spirit during that weekend, started by a speech from all of the coaches at the hotel and followed by a speech from our captain, Benoit Campion. It was a tough race for the runners, with such hard conditions, rain, mud, cold - the typical French cross country weather. The team ran so well, and we won easily. The team really became a big family.
AIC won the 2019 NE10 Men's Cross Country title this past fall.
The seemingly impossible hurdle that I faced was when I got injured three days before the conference championship. I was so disappointed; I knew it was serious because I was limping. I had a calf strain and it took me three weeks to get back on my feet. I was in the athletic training room everyday doing rehab and treatment. I am not a patient person, so it was difficult to deal with it.
My teammates and especially my captain helped me realize what was important. One of my goals was to be part of the top seven and qualify for the cross country nationals. It will be for next year, too!
Paillon at the NE10 Championship with his teammate, Titus Kiptoo.
When you get injured, you learn a lot about yourself and you realize sometimes you think too much about running.
What I did was just enjoyed spending more time with my friends on campus and doing stuff other than running; I played pool more often, went bowling…anything to clear my mind! I also realized how I’ll be more motivated for the indoor season. I started training very progressively with Coach’s help.
AIC at the New England Cross Country Championship in Boston.
As I said before, our team is just a big family of 19 guys. I am writing these thoughts in France, and I just arrived for Christmas break, but I miss my teammates already. I’ve met such nice people since August, from freshmen to grad students, and we got used to spending our time together.
The team’s energy is just unbelievable. I’ve made strong bonds and we had fun together almost every day, laughing, smiling and joking around. The team is wonderful and I’m so happy to live with them. I take pride in sharing my experience with them and becoming a leader of the team.
- Clement Paillon
Paillon will compete with the Yellow Jackets at the NE10 Indoor Track & Field Championship on Feb. 20-21.