Chartiers Valley runner rises above 'sophomore slump'
"Sophomore slump" is a term commonly used in sports.
For Alex Coyne, the slump she suffered through early this year -- her sophomore season -- was brought on by an injury.
Coyne, a member of the Chartiers Valley cross country squad, suffered a high-ankle sprain while competing at a meet in Mingo Creek Park early in the season. Coyne said she turned the ankle on a hill early in the race. The injury kept her out of competition for nearly three weeks.
"I told her it might be hard to replicate such an impressive first year," Chartiers Valley Coach Lori Poe said. "I told her there will be ups and downs. She needs to learn to bounce back."
After returning from the injury, Coyne finished 91st out of 459 runners at the Red, White and Blue Invitational at Schenley Park. Her time of 21:17 was the best of the Chartiers Valley squad.
She finished 134th out of 433 runners at the Tri-State Championships at Cooper's Lake in Slippery Rock. Her time of 21:48 was second on the Chartiers Valley team.
She returned to Mingo Creek Park for the Mingo Classic earlier this month. This time, she completed the race with no incident and finished 20th out of 110 runners with a time of 22:06.
Coyne competes on Chartiers Valley's basketball team and track squad. She said she can't say what her favorite is, as her heart is in whatever sport is in season.
"She is really competitive," Poe said. "You can't teach that."
Coyne's success as a cross country runner with limited experience is a rarity. Poe said she has freshmen on the team who have more experience in the sport because of running while in middle school. Poe said Coyne has yet to tap into her true ability.
"With Alex never running before her freshman year, she needed to experience more races to improve," Poe said. "Entering more competitive races and competing in the summer will help Alex compete at a higher level."
Last year, Coyne entered her first season of cross country to stay in shape during the basketball off-season.
Little did she know how successful the season would be. Her first season led to a 15th-place finish at the WPIAL championships, which qualified her for the PIAA championships.
Making it to the PIAA championship was a first for a Chartiers Valley freshman, either boy or girl, Poe said.
"It feels good knowing I have done something no one else had," Coyne said.
At the championships in Hershey, Coyne finished 62nd out of 285 racers in the 5K with a time of 20:24.
The run to the PIAA championships last season has pushed Coyne's competitiveness to make another visit to the state meet.
"It's a goal," Coyne said. "It always is. Last year, I didn't know it could be a reality. Now, I do, and I want to improve on it."
Coyne and her Chartiers Valley teammates will compete at the WPIAL Championships today at Cooper's Lake at Slippery Rock.
The top 20 finishers, not including team scorers, will qualify for the PIAA meet on Nov. 6 in Hershey.