Union County

Marvin Ridge loaded with talent, aiming for state title

Lexi King has worked hard this summer to prepare for the upcoming cross country season.
Lexi King has worked hard this summer to prepare for the upcoming cross country season. COURTESY OF MELISSA KING-PIERCE

Lexi King of Marvin Ridge High has proven to be one of the best girls’ cross country runners in the state.

As a freshman, King won the Union County Championships, Southern Carolinas’ conference title, the 3A Midwest Regional crown (still her personal-best 17:52), and then finished fifth in the 3A state cross country meet.

As a sophomore, she repeated as conference, county and regional champion, this time finishing fourth at the state meet.

King also stepped up her game in the Mavericks’ indoor and outdoor seasons last year, as she finished in the top five of nearly every big race she competed in.

In the process, King has added state championships to her individual resume, including the 1,600-meter indoor state title and a 4 x 800-meter relay outdoors.

But the 16-year-old junior says she’s looking to get better.

“I had a strong sophomore season overall from cross country to indoor to outdoor,” said King, who was also a part of two team championships as the Marvin Ridge girls won the 3A indoor and outdoor (team) state titles. “But I am pretty hard on myself and I always want to be improving. I’m always trying to lower my times.

“As a freshman, I ran a 17:52 at regionals, last year my best was 18:04. So, I’m definitely focused on consistently running in the low 18 or under. You are always looking to set a new personal-record/best.”

Marvin Ridge coach Cameron Starr says with every success King has had, it creates more expectations.

“When you know the expectations that you have because of that past success, it definitely can put some pressure on you,” Starr said.

“Our focus in every race is to try to be in that moment, right here, right now. Because nothing you’ve done in the past or will do in the future can help you now.”

King says her goal this season is to turn many of those top five finishes into championships. As a to cross country runner, things won’t get easier.

“It’s really weird to think of myself as one of the top runners in the state,” King said. “But I really don’t get caught up in all the rankings. I try to focus on my training and just try to get better every day.”

This summer she has logged 40-50 miles per week, while peaking at 50-55 miles the week of team camp.

King, 5-foot-7, says cross country is her favorite season, as she actually prefers the long distance runs. Starr said she believes King’s experience will help her improve.

“This year, Lexi can focus on the race within the race and race strategy a lot more,” Starr said. “A lot of kids just try to run as hard as they can, but you can’t do that all the time. She has worked on making that last move out of the pack to be the first one to the finish in the bigger races. She will definitely have a better ran plan in each meet.”

The Mavericks are loaded with talent, including senior captain Nicole Renwick, and classmates Melanie Hussey and Kylie Hennessey. Junior Jennae Jacob also is an experienced runner.

The Mavericks are ranked No. 6 in ncrunners.com preseason poll.

“We have indoor and outdoor state championship banners, but no cross country (state championship) banners,” Starr said. “We want to say we are state champions in all three (cross country, indoor and outdoor track) this season and I think we have a good chance to do it.”

Starr has changed up her training regimen to try and put her at a state championship pace.

“All last season, I felt like she was fit enough to run a 17:30,” said Starr. “So, this year, I’ve set her training to engrain the pace 17 to 17:30 in her mind. By the time we get to states, I want Lexi to feel like she is the best in the field. I want to see her race with that confidence.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.