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Tuesday, 05 November 2019 22:22

Lady Raider Season Recap: 'Great first season' for Covington as girls' XC coach

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Coach Jessica Covington (second row, second from left) called her first season as the girls' XC coach a success. Coach Jessica Covington (second row, second from left) called her first season as the girls' XC coach a success. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — When she took over the Richmond Senior High School girls’ cross country program in August, first-year head coach Jessica Covington wasn’t exactly sure what type of season the Lady Raiders would have.

But fast forward three months and Covington and Lady Raiders have completed the 2019 season, and the head coach couldn’t have asked for a better inaugural slate. Covington inherited a strong program from former coach Shellie Wimpey, which was laced with seasoned veterans and a fresh batch of determined rookie runners.

“This was a great first season for me as a coach and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to coach this great group of athletes and work with Reggie Miller,” Covington shared of her team and the boys’ head coach. “He has been very helpful with tips that he has used in the past and his knowledge of the sport.”  

Miller, who wrapped up his cross country coaching career after 11 seasons, served as a mentor to Covington as she adjusted to her new role as a weight training teacher at the high school.

The Lady Raiders saw senior Airel Brown captain the team in her fourth and final season, as she was the top runner for Richmond in every race she ran this fall. Having breakthrough seasons were No. 2 sophomore Maylyn Wallace and No. 3 freshman Sheccid Heaton, both of whom competed at the high school cross country level for the first time. 

Often in the mix for the top six Lady Raider runners were seniors Abby Calhoun and Analee Wyand, along with junior Allyson Leggett and freshman Rylie Bohman. Out of eight teams in the Sandhills Athletic Conference, Richmond placed fourth in this season’s conference championship run.

“I feel like we had a great combination of athletes and I really loved seeing how the veteran runners led the beginners,” Covington shared. “The girls were always willing to work hard and give 100 percent. 

“Airel will be greatly missed,” she continued. “She was a team leader and would always lead warm ups and lead the way through our trails in practice.  She is always positive and even when she was sick, she would push herself to give all she had.”

Covington quoted Wallace as the team’s “most improved” runner. During the team’s first meet in early September, Wallace posted a time of 30:16. By her final race of the campaign, the 5-11 sophomore had take exactly seven minutes off her time. Covington said her constant “working hard to go the extra mile” is what made the difference. 

Three different times this fall the Lady Raiders would top the timesheet and pick up a win, including their lone home meet at Hinson Lake. Covington called that the team’s best race, adding the girls had “extra incentive” to show out and win on their home course. 

Brown, Bohman, Heaton, Leggett and Wyand represented the team in the 4A Mideast Regional race last weekend, although no one would qualify for states. Brown was also the only Richmond runner, male or female, to earn All-SAC honors.

Other highlights for Covington in her first season were watching the “kids come into the finish line giving 100 percent in a dead sprint,” during every race, as well as senior night at Hinson Lake.

“I’m going to miss our seniors for sure, but it’s also very encouraging to have a team where I know we can build and only get better for next year also,” Covington said.

“Cross country is truly a year-round sport and in order for us to be competitive we need to focus on getting as many girls into track and field as possible,” she closed. “And we need to keep running throughout the year.  I want to build our endurance during the offseason so we can work more on speed when we get back to our active time.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 05 November 2019 22:28

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Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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