MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WBOY) – Irene Riggs’ storied high school cross country career is not quite over, but she continues to gain some of the biggest honors in the sport.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Morgantown High School senior was named the Gatorade National Girls’ Cross Country Player of the Year.
The Stanford signee put together one of the most impressive cross country seasons ever by a West Virginia athlete, claiming the Class AAA state championship in dominant fashion and going nationwide with wins at the Nike National championships and USA Track and Field U20 nationals.
With the running culture in the state of West Virginia as strong as ever, she is proud to be the face of her sport not just for her state, but across the country.
“I think it’s just really honoring to be able to represent the state this way,” Riggs said. “I think if you look back, especially in distance running and all sorts in general, we’ve really grown as a state in athletics and I think sometimes we get a little bit shadowed, so I think it’s important to do our best to represent the state well.”
If not for some quick healing and a determined mindset, this storybook season may have not been possible at all.
An early season foot injury came close to derailing Riggs’ senior season before it could really get started, but her desire was too much to be stopped.
“I did not envision that my senior season would be a success and that it would turn out like this,” she said, “so I think it was really a big lesson this entire season that if you stay dedicated and really just believe in yourself that a lot can happen.”
For now, Riggs’ focus turns toward the World Athletics U20 Cross Country Championships that will be held on February 18 in Bathurst, Australia.
It was that win this past Saturday at the USATF U20 nationals that set up this opportunity and it’s something that feels like it’s been a long time coming.
“I am so excited to go to Australia. It’s going to be a great experience and just being able to race so many talented athletes, I think is what I’m most excited for,” she said.
The chance to compete on the world stage is something she’s always wanted to do, but she wasn’t quite sure if now was the time.
“I just kind of decided, whenever this opportunity comes up again, I don’t know where I’ll be so thinking about that made me realize the opportunity and try to qualify, and honestly, my goal was top six, because that’s the cutoff for qualifying, but I ended up feeling good so I had a good race,” she said.
Following the World Athletics Championships next month, it’s right back to training for Irene Riggs as she and her Morgantown High teammates have a Class AAA track and field state championship to defend in the spring.