Freshman is already on winning track for Mavericks
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Tuesday, Feb. 04, 2014

Freshman is already on winning track for Mavericks

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/31/13/28/Xq2uM.Em.138.jpeg|211
    - COURTESY OF ROGER KING
    Marvin Ridge freshman Lexi King, in orange, has had some success nationally, finishing 20th in the 4,000-meter race at the United States Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country championships in Albuquerque, N.M., in eighth grade.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/31/13/28/R2GjT.Em.138.jpeg|211
    - COURTESY OF ROGER KING
    Marvin Ridge freshman runner Lexi King experienced running success early, finishing second in her first race as a fourth-grader.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/31/13/28/FIwyg.Em.138.jpeg|211
    - COURTESY OF ROGER KING
    Marvin Ridge freshman Lexi King, in orange, has already qualified for the indoor state meet in three events and will also likely run in a relay.

Long before Lexi King ever ran in a meet at Marvin Ridge High, she showed promise.

She ran her first race as a fourth-grader as part of the Girls on the Run program. Her mother, Melissa King, wanted her to pace herself. But her daughter left her in the dust.

“Honestly, I was kind of shocked when she just took off in that first race, and I thought she was going to run out of steam quick and fall back. But she just kept getting farther ahead of me, until I couldn’t see her,” said Melissa King, who ran competitively in high school. “I think it was about fifth or sixth grade that we really noticed she had some talent. But she also has the desire and passion to work at it. I think that is what has helped her get better.”

King, who went on to finish second out of more than 100 of her peers in that first 5K race, continued to develop a winning reputation in middle school; she lost only three school races in three years.

King is now a freshman who has trained with the Waxhaw Track Club year-round since middle school. She has also had some success nationally, finishing 20th in the 4,000-meter race at the United States Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country championships in Albuquerque, N.M., in eighth grade.

“We knew Lexi (King) was good from an early age,” said Marvin Ridge coach Cameron Starr, who saw her run in elementary school. “But you never know how someone will develop. Lexi has definitely taken advantage of the opportunities to run competitively and improved.”

King, who turned 15 last week, didn’t waste any time proving she could hang with some of the best runners in the state, winning the Weddington Invitational, Union County Championships and the Wendy’s Invitational 3A in the fall cross-country season.

Then in the postseason, King won the Southern Carolina Conference and 3A Midwest Regional cross-country titles, running a personal-best time of 17 minutes, 52 seconds to win the regional at McAlpine Park. She finished fifth at the state 3A meet.

“I was kind of surprised (by her early success) because I didn’t know what to expect in high school,” Melissa King said.

King is quick to point to her comfort level with Starr and her teammates, many of whom she went to elementary and middle school with, as a major factor in her accomplishments.

“Getting to train and compete with so many familiar friends that I had run with growing up helped me make the transition to high school a lot easier,” King said. “The whole environment at Marvin Ridge is great because we all have the same goals, and we all want to get to the same places. That really motivates me every day.”

While King says indoor track “is a whole different world,” from what she is used to, she has excelled anyway, qualifying for states in three different individual events: the 1,000-meter, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs; she will likely run in the 4x800 relay as well.

King has the second-best time in the state in the 3,200-meter run this winter (11:21.60) and third best time in the 1,600-meter run (5:21.30).

King is part of a loaded Mavericks team that has had 13 girls qualify for states (as of Jan. 28): seniors Delaney Dunkley, Kacie Hicks, Kayla Lugibihl and Kathleen Maher; juniors Kaitlyn Harper and Taylor Helms; sophomores Kylie Hennessey, Melanie Hussey, Lexi Noch, Frances Ngozi-Obuseh and Nicole Renwick; and freshman Jennae Jacob.

While King would love to challenge for an individual state title, she is most focused on helping her team, which was 3A state runner-up last year, claim the state championship Feb. 7 in Winston-Salem.

“Being a part of a team and getting to run for your school is a lot of fun,” King said. “Getting to work out and hang out with your friends, and the bus rides and everything, is great. We all are close, so winning a state championship would be even better.”

“Having a team focus is something Lexi (King) has never had to deal with,” Starr said. “While it takes some of the pressure off of her individually, you always feel pressure to run your best for your teammates, too.”

Starr is trying to make sure King focuses on the process of each race, not just the end results.

“You’re not going to win every race at this level no matter how good you are,” Starr said. “I want her to focus on putting herself in position at a certain point in each race, where she gives herself a chance to win. It’s the race within the race.”

King is looking forward to three more years at Marvin Ridge to keep working on her running.

“I try not to get too far ahead of myself or get caught up in things could happen in future,” King said. “I just try to go out in each race and do what I know I can do well.”

Starr says the whole Marvin Ridge cross-country and track training program is set up for the long term. He believes King’s future is very bright.

“Her whole training program is set up to make our girls the best runners they can be in their mid-20s,” said Starr. “We believe that gives her the best chance to be the runner she wants to be.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.

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