BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL)- In our new digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Kelsey Harrington, a cross country runner at Virginia High School.
There’s no Christmas shopping right now for Virginia High cross country runner Kelsey Harrington. She had other plans last week.
“To do the best I can, and come in the top tier, top five somewhere up there and keep working my way up as high as I can go,” Kelsey Harrington said.
Harrington started out running in the Foot Locker Southeast Invitational that weekend, finishing 4th.
“We knew after, Foot Locker South is a big deal, and if 4th isn’t good enough for her it’s not going to be good enough for me and I’m going to do whatever I can to help her achieve that goal,” cross country head coach Josh Shuler said.
She wasn’t happy with that 4th place finish, so when Monday came around, she was right back out there training in the cold.
“She was ready to get back to work and we knew it was cold but we were gonna get back to work and regardless of the temperature she was ready to do her mile repeats workout and it was difficult for her it was freezing cold but she toughed it out and ran great times and she had another great practice despite the weather,” Shuler said.
Jump ahead to Wednesday; Kelsey got to be indoors, and made her dreams come true.
“It feels great and it makes me feel more confident about myself and moving forward,” Harrington said.
She signed her national letter of intent to continue her running career at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
“I chose North Carolina because of the wonderful coaches and athletes, the beautiful campus and academic programs,” Harrington said.
“Oh it’s a really special day for me, she’s worked so hard and tries to be all she can be especially with running and it’s just special for her to get a scholarship this big, it’s a big honor,” Cindy Moore, Kelsey’s mom, said at her signing.
Kelsey joins Dobyns-Bennett runner Sasha Neglia on her way to Chapel Hill. She beat Neglia in the Nike National Championships race this past weekend in Portland, Oregon.
“It’s a big deal and I think working together helps bring competition throughout the races,” Harrington said.
“I completely believe and I’ve told many coaches this while she’s been recruited, I’ve told them she is very capable of being a Division-I All-American,” Shuler said.
But this was just one step towards her end goal; it’s a pretty big end goal.
“My goal is probably to move on to the Olympics if that’s a possibility,” Harrington said.
“I 100% think that she could, she has the work ethic and drive to go as far as she wants and I’ve told many coaches from Princeton to UNC and everyone in between that she has not touched her ceiling yet she still has so much room to improve and when she gets down there on a campus with coaches who know more than what we know at the high school level with better facilities and better training partners her potential is limitless,” Shuler said.
For now it’s about getting better here at the high school level, competing in some pretty impressive national competitions.
“It’s a huge opportunity, she’s only the 1st girl ever from the state of Virginia to be invited, first female or male to ever be invited to run in both the Nike and Foot Locker invitational and she’s only the 5th from the southeast ever to so it’s a huge ideal and just a great honor for any athlete,” Shuler said.
For now, the Christmas shopping can be put on hold. Kelsey’s still got some work to do.
“It goes back to I’ve coached a lot of great athletes over the years between wrestling and football and track and cross country, she’s the grittiest toughest athlete I’ve ever coached that goes for boys and girls, she is incredibly tough mentally and physically,” Shuler said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.