Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports

Morgantown’s Irene Riggs wins second straight McCoy Award

MORGANTOWN — Following another standout running season, Morgantown High’s Irene Riggs has been awarded a second straight McCoy Award by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

The McCoy Award is given to the top male and female track athletes each year. Riggs became the first-ever Mohigan to win the award last season, and repeats the feat this season.

In 2022, the Stanford University recruit led the Mohigans to a Class AAA track title and a third-straight Class AAA cross-county crown, setting the 5K course record with a time of 16:32 for repeat medal honors. In track, she won Class AAA high point honors by winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200.

For as much success as Riggs has already had in her senior campaign at MHS, things did not get off to a smooth start, as she was slowed early on with a foot injury.

“Whenever my foot injury happened, I did not envision that my season would still be a success and it would turn out like this,” Riggs admitted. “I think it was just a big lesson that if you just stay dedicated and believe in yourself, a lot can happen. It means a lot to have a successful season even though I had a rough start.”

Outside of high school competition, Riggs won the Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon over a field of 195 runners. Most recently, Riggs won the U-20 title at the 2023 USATF Cross-Country Championships this past weekend with a time of 19:45.0 in the 6K race. The win earned her a spot on Team USA to compete in the World XC Championships in Australia next month.

“I am so excited to go to Australia,” Riggs said of the opportunity. “It’s going to be a great experience to be able to race so many talented athletes. It’s definitely going to be something I’ve never experienced before. I’m definitely excited and a little bit nervous.”

Riggs is no stranger to college athletics, as her twin sister, Caroline, has committed to swim at Yale and her father, Vic, is the swimming and diving coach at WVU. Riggs said as early as her freshman year at MHS she thought about running in college, but it wasn’t until after the canceled 2020 COVID season that she gained the confidence necessary to reach that goal.

“I think freshman year I realized I wanted to run in college; that was the starting point for me,” she said. “It wasn’t until this summer that I gained a lot of the confidence I had that. As athletes, we all struggle a little bit with confidence and believing in ourselves and I certainly really struggled with that, especially coming back from COVID. I think this year I really started to believe in myself and it just shows how much that can help you perform.”

Riggs’ accomplishments have also garnered national acclaim as she has been named the Gatorade Girls Cross-Country Player of the Year in January. Riggs is a three-time West Virginia Gatorade player of the year, but the national honor came as a shock.

“Whenever I found out I was definitely surprised,” she said. “It’s not what I was expecting. I was definitely really shocked and my immediate reaction was excitement, and I was just really honored.”

Riggs beat out winners from all other 49 states for the award — impressive, considering the Mountain State’s weather and topography aren’t exactly ideal for distance running.

“The weather here is not the most fun to run in the winter; I’ve fallen quite a few times,” Riggs admitted with a laugh. “Running with teammates is really what helps me run in the winter because running with your friends is what makes it enjoyable.”

With as much as Riggs has already accomplished in her high school career, she still has some time left. In addition to the world championships in Australia, Riggs will be back on the track for the Mohigans this spring for one final prep track and field season.

Riggs will be honored by the W.Va. Sports Writers Association at the 76th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 7 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.

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