A pair of runners from Daviess County High School are moving on to Division I programs, as Karlee Hoffman and Riliegh Owens both announced their plans on Wednesday.
Hoffman signed with Eastern Kentucky University, while Owens will continue her career at Morehead State University. Both schools are members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Head coach Mark Fortney said the duo have been great additions for the Lady Panthers, and he expects them to add to their success at the next level.
“Morehead State and Eastern are going to get two great individuals not only in the classroom but also in the sport of running,” Fortney said. “We’re definitely going to miss them. They’ve given so much to the program.”
Both runners were part of a highly-successful cross country squad over the last four years, including a state championship, two runner-up finishes and a third-place finish.
Individually, Hoffman ended her career with a second-place finish — she took fifth, third and fifth in her first three years, respectively. Fortney said just as impressive is her personality outside the sport.
“Over the years, you all have seen what she’s accomplished in running, but let’s start with her personality,” he said. “She reaches out to everybody. She gives back. She’s a loving kid and a great Christian. She’s going to excel in whatever she chooses to do.”
Owens’ best performance in a state meet came in her sophomore season when she took 41st place. Though she only started running as a freshman, Fortney said Owens’ work ethic helped her find success quickly.
“There’s nobody that will outwork her — in the classroom, on the track, cross country, whatever it is,” he said. “Out of all the kids I’ve coached, she probably enjoys training and racing more than anybody I’ve ever had. She’ll knock the wall down for you. She’s the same way in the classroom.”
Hoffman picked the Colonels after her visit made her feel like she fit in well.
“I met a couple of the girls and they were so welcoming,” she said. “When I talked with the coaches, I felt like it was the right place.”
Hoffman said with so many memories at Daviess County, it will be bittersweet to move on.
“Getting second this year was great, and so was winning state my freshman year,” she said. “The tradition that Daviess County cross country has, I just love it. I’m going to miss being on the team.”
Fortney said the Colonels have a very strong program, so it will allow Hoffman to compete against some of the best runners in the country.
“Karlee is stepping into a program that is really good,” he said. “They are going to have a shot at being on the podium at nationals in a couple years.”
Hoffman knows that means she will have to compete for a spot, but she looks forward to the challenge.
“I think I’m pretty prepared,” she said. “They’ll do some things like lifting that we don’t do. I’m ready.”
For Owens, choosing the Eagles was also a fairly easy decision.
“The coaches followed me throughout the process and were always encouraging,” she said. “They’d always call me after a meet to keep up with me.”
Like Hoffman, Owens said she will reflect fondly on her time as a Lady Panther.
“Cross country isn’t just a sport to me,” Owens said. “It made me grow as a person. I’ll look back at the memories and times we cherished. The times that were hard, my teammates were the ones who built me up.”
She also expects to make some adjustments, but she’s ready to take on the challenge.
“I know the training is different, so I’m going to look forward to that,” Owens said. “I’m also looking forward to having new coaches and start a new journey and improve myself as an athlete and overall.”
Fortney said with only a few years under her belt, Owens still has plenty of room to grow, and he said both of his runners will do just fine.
“Riliegh brings it every time,” he said. “She just works so hard and loves the sports. She’s going to improve drastically as she goes. To get to that next level, you’ve really got to step up your game. They can both handle it.”