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Patrick Henry Community College athletes giving cross country a try this fall
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Patrick Henry Community College athletes giving cross country a try this fall

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Standing on the starting line for a cross country meet is a nerve-wracking and scary thing for any athlete, no matter how many races they’ve run or how much they’ve prepared.

But standing on the starting line for a college cross country meet when you’ve never done it before heightens those nerves tenfold.

Patrick Henry Community College athletes Elizabeth Corcoran, Jayden Keatts, and Shelby Valade stood on the starting line of last Friday’s Patriots Invitational having never run a 5K before. They had never ran a race of any length before. Never even run three miles consecutively without stopping.

When the Patriots cross country team hosted their first meet of the season last Friday at Smith River Sports Complex, several PHCC students became multi-sport athletes for the school, and found that not only was running not as difficult as they imagined, but it was something they wanted to continue doing to prepare themselves for their other sports and get the competitive juices flowing again.

Valade is a member of the PHCC women’s soccer team, which was supposed to compete this fall until the coronavirus pandemic pushed the season, as well as the Patriots’ men’s soccer and volleyball seasons, to the spring. The soccer team began fall workouts last week, but Valade was tempted to give cross country a try to be better prepared for the endurance needed for a full soccer game.

The miles run playing soccer though don’t compare to a full 5K, though.

“When we got around that first turn there was a big, big hill. We were all like, ‘Oh no,’” Valade said.

Cross country is the only sport at PHCC that was able to compete this fall under NJCAA COVID-19 guidelines.

Corcoran and Keatts, both sophomores for the Patriots softball team, are used to waking up at 6:30 every morning to go for runs with their teammates and coach Robbi Campbell. Since the softball team does a lot of conditioning in the fall and winter to prepare for the spring, the duo felt prepared for Friday’s race, to an extent.

“Honestly, just challenging myself because I do run voluntarily to keep myself in shape for softball but I’ve never done something like this,” Corcoran said. “So I was like, ‘You know what? I might as well.’ And I knew I was going to beat myself up if I didn’t do it so I just decided to do it.”

“It feels good,” Keatts said. “I thought it would be cool to say I finally did it.”

All three athletes spoke with Patriots cross country coach Andre Kidd following the race to talk about their training for the next three weeks before the Region X championship, which will also take place at SRSC. Kidd told them to make sure they’re able to run at least 45 minutes without stopping during the team’s practices to make races easier.

He also said their times Friday, ranging from 26-28 minutes, were just a few minutes off from what could be all-region, or even all-American times, especially with fewer teams across the country competing this fall.

For some extremely competitive athletes, that’s all they needed to hear.

“We definitely met our goals. It definitely went a lot better than expected,” Corcoran said.

“I didn’t think I was going to finish there for a second,” Valade said. “It was tiring. I think I need to go get an ice bath.”

The Region X Cross Country Championship will run on October 31 at SRSC.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

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