By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Last year Emma Harrison and Kaitlyn Conaway teamed up with Alexis Hillberry to win several relay medals at the state track meet.
Though the two West Virginia Wesleyan runners are now in college, they helped to pass the baton to Hillberry Wednesday when she signed her National Letter of Intent to join her former teammates on the Bobcats’ track team.
“Emma (Harrison) was the one who talked to coach (Jesse) Skiles and had him recruit me,” Hillberry said during a ceremony at North Marion High School. “Basically because of her that’s the reason I’m going there.”
In her junior season last year, Hillberry took first place on the 4x100 meter and 4x200 meter relay teams. She also helped the 4x400 meter team to third place and took ninth individually in the 400-meter dash.
At Wesleyan she will be a middle distance runner and participate in the 400-meter and 800-meter races. The training will change, since she is adding distance and taking away the sprinting events.
“Coach Skiles feels that because I’m good in the 400, I’ll be able to be a good 800 runner,” she said.
In addition to the influence her former teammates had, Hillberry said she selected Wesleyan because of its location and reputation.
“I really liked the academic program there and also the athletic program,” she said. “Also the size of the school and the location really made me want to go there.
“I didn’t want to go too far away, because I do want to be able to come home and visit often. That was a selling point for me.”
Off the track, Hillberry plans to major in nursing. Her coach, Jeff Crane, said he expects her to do well on the track and in the classroom.
“She’s a good student in the classroom,” he said. “That’s why we elected her as the captain. I’ve been here over 20 years and we’ve only had two captains. One is Keri Bland (a nine-time All-American at West Virginia University). The other is Alexis Hillberry.”
Hillberry was also joined by Bland, her stepmother Toneya and principal Rusty DeVito during the ceremony.
Crane said he couldn’t be more proud of his athlete.
“This is why you coach,” he said. “You want to see your athletes do well in the classroom and on the track. When they sign to go to college, you know that all the work that they put in and that you’ve put in is paying off.”
Email Mike DeFabo at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.