Clair Nowakowski had played soccer in the Ridgewood youth leagues, but her family was on vacation during 9th grade soccer tryouts, so she showed up and started running with the Cross-Country team which had no tryouts. She trained easily up to the first meet making no impression on teammates, coaches, or herself. Then came the first race a Garret Mountain. She won easily and a star was born.
Clair has a positive and upbeat demeanor and she brought this to her life at Ridgewood High School. A hard worker, she brought her best every day to her classmates, teachers, and teammates. She is one of those people that make the “Tradition of Excellence” sign on the Ridgewood High School wall have meaning.
Clair’s statistics are remarkable. At Ridgewood she ran three sports: Cross Country, Winter Track and Spring Track, earning 12 varsity letters. In Cross Country she was 1st team All Bergen 3 times and won the Bergen Individual Championship as a senior. Statewide she was State Group 4 Champion and named 1st Team All-State as a senior. In her sophomore year she led the Ridgewood team to the New Jersey State Championship.
During Clair’s 4-year career the Ridgewood cross country team never lost a meet in northern New Jersey. In winter track Clair won All Bergen Country honors in the distance events and was an integral part of one of the best winter programs in the county. In spring track, her range from the 400 to the 3200 enabled her to lead the team to numerous championships. She frequently won 3 events at the league and country level. She was even on the Bergen Championship 4×400 team!
She ended her Bergen career with 9 straight All Country selections from sophomore to senior year. In both her junior and senior year she competed in the National Scholastic Outdoor Championship in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her 1600-meter personal record of 5:04.28 is still on the Ridgewood All-Time list.
At the University of Georgia Clair continued to improve her running. She was an important part of improving the Georgia cross country program and ran in the NCAA regional championship several times. In Track she continued her distance running exploits adding the steeple chase to her repertoire. Her pinnacle moment at Georgia was scoring in the SEC Championship steeplechase and standing on the podium with other great college runners.
After college Clair remained in the Atlanta area working a career in human resources. She met the love of her life, Chris Looney, married and had their child, Maddie, (the cutest child ever). She still runs most days and would do just fine on the Ridgewood team today! Clair has always exhibited an innocent enthusiasm for life in whatever she is doing. The qualities that made her a great teammate at Ridgewood High School now inform her life as a career professional, wife, and mother.
The Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame is proud to have her as a member!
RHS Athletic Hall Of Fame Inductees
John Marshall, Jim Bruni, Mark Romeo, Jean Hughes, Chris Van Note, Nancy Hogan, RHS Football Team 1913, Don Taylor, Rachel Grygiel, John Cerf, Paul Tornatore, Michele Marangi, RHS Boys’ Lacrosse 1990-92
Craig Halyard, Tom Flatt, Tricia Pappalardo, Mike Henderson, Kandie Latham, Leigh Jester, Tom Dusel, Roger Sweeney, Linda Zabielski, Patty Capasso, Dennis Sullivan, Nick & Dottie Capasso, Track and Field (Bain-Daley-Oliver Era)
Kitty Batterson, Henry Blauvelt, Frank L. Bradley, Jr., Lucia Cancelmo, Chris DuFlocq, Renee DuFlon, RHS Girls’ Basketball 1922-1923, Harry Grundy, Jim Jones, Joe LeMay, Jen McDermott, Shannon McGarrigle, Tony Napier, Margaret Niemann, Vince Robertiello (Jamie Roberts), Damian Ross, Mike Springer
Paul Arrigoni, Pete Campbell, Doug Cook, Becky Deetz, Otis Grendler, Jodi Hartwig, Gene Links, Debbie O’Connell, Aimee McGuire, Walt Perdue, Tom Simos, Kazbek Tambi, Jack Van Yperen, Bob Whitaker, Margaret Scutro