Bridge Sports Complex Athlete of the Week - Morgantown’s Irene Riggs

Riggs broke the state record during the 2022 state cross country meet
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 5:05 PM EDT
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - During the class AAA girl’s cross country state championship, Morgantown’s Irene Riggs got out to a sizable lead in the early goings of the race. By the end of it, she had a two minute lead, taking the individual title and helping the team take their fourth consecutive team title.

“I know that coming in freshman year, it was exciting to win a state title with my team,” said Riggs. “To be able to do that for four years is something really special.”

Special puts it lightly for the performance that Riggs put on display. Her final time at Cabell-Midland was 16:32.32. The next closest time was 18:34.57. Riggs not only shattered the state record by nearly a minute, she also won the race with two whole minutes to spare. For Riggs, it’s something that’s always been a goal.

“That was definitely one of my goals coming in, to get the state record,” said Riggs. “I’m really happy to be leaving while doing that.”

Irene Riggs
Irene Riggs(WDTV)

But as Riggs will definitely tell you, it wasn’t just her performance that found Morgantown on top of the team rankings. The team had an impressive score of just 32, 55 points less than second place. Five runners finished in the Top 10 for Morgantown, but all runners for the team finished in the top 30 of 91 competitors.

“It was super exciting watching all of them coming down the home stretch,” said Riggs. “Seeing so many girls finish in the top 10, it was super exciting, and it made me proud to be a part of this team.”

Riggs has been a contender across the country on a national level. She currently holds the second fastest high school time in United States history for the outdoor two-mile run, with the difference between first and second being just two one-hundredths of a second. She has also been named a Gatorade player of the year multiple times, enshrining herself as one of the best to ever do it, all from right here in West Virginia.

“It means a lot. It makes me really proud to be able to represent West Virginia like this,” said Riggs. “Sometimes we don’t get a lot of attention, so I’m glad to do my little part in helping get running from West Virginia out there.”

Riggs’ impact will be one that is felt in the community for a long time. During the race, many younger runners that were helping with the event continuously asked each other: “Did you see what Irene ran?”

For Morgantown head coach Mike Ryan, he hopes that those that see Riggs’ success in the area want to show the world that they can do it too.

“I’m lucky, blessed, that this has been a continual situation,” said coach Ryan. “I know that when Irene came in during her Freshman year, she looked up to Leah Hatcher and Athena Young, which both qualified for national races. Now, these girls that are just coming into it are looking up to her. It kind of works in those cycles. The class before inspires the one underneath. That’s something that we hope to keep going. I know the girls in junior high, middle school, they’re talking about what Irene has done. They see this, and they know that they can run the same trail, walk the same hallways as her and some of these other girls. That’s really a big inspiration.”