By Rob Kiser
RUSSIA — Russia senior Molly Kearns remembers when she first ran 5Ks.
“I would run them with my dad just for fun,” the daughter of Tim and Dee Kearns said. “I would tell him I was training, but I really wasn’t.”
Since then, Kearns has developed a passion for running that will continue for four more years. On Thursday night in the Russia library, she signed a letter of intent to run for Wright State University.
“I really liked the coach down there,” Kearns said. “And they have a really good bio medical engineering program, which is what I am going to major in.”
When Kearns ran cross country in seventh, her feelings for the sport began to change.
“I just developed a passion and a love for it,” she said.
And she has continued to improve with each season.
In cross country, she has been part of the four most successful Russia cross country teams in school history.
As a freshman, she finished 78th in 20:19.42 to help Russia to a fourth-place finish.
As a sophomore, she was 68th in 20:20.07 as the Lady Raiders finished seventh.
Her junior year, Russia had its best ever finish at state, taking third as a team and Kearns was 55th in 20:11.94.
She saved her best for her senior season, finishing 39th in 19:48.9 to help Russia to a sixth-place.
“Fourth, seventh, third and sixth — I would say that is pretty darn good,” Russia cross country coach Doug Foster said. “And Molly was a big part of our success.”
Kearns wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
“It has been great to be part of a program like that,” she said. “Especially with my friend (and fellow senior) Lauren Heaton.”
In track and field in the spring, she had a breakout season as a junior last year, finishing 10th in the 3,200 at the state meet.
“It was good to be able to make it to state in both,” Kearns said. “It is a lot tougher in track — they only take four girls (from the regional in each event). But, it was a lot of fun.”
Russia track and field coach Brad Heaton can’t wait to see what Kearns does this spring.
“Hopefully, she can make it back to state,” he said. “She will be training this winter and run some indoor events. It is great for the program (to have a runner run at the college level). She is a hard worker and a great kid.”
And as successful as Kearns has been in high school, she wasn’t sure she had a future in running.
“It probably wasn’t until last winter,” she said. “I dedicated myself and trained over the winter. That is when I knew (she could run at the college level). I am hoping to make it back to state this spring (in the 3,200).”
Foster said she has just touched the tip of her potential.
“We are not a high mileage team,” he said. “Her (Molly Kearns) best races are in front of her as she trains more and builds up her base miles. Just like Katie (Borchers) did at Ohio State. I think Wright State is getting a runner that is going to make an impact.”
In a career that started just having fun with her dad.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.