Sophomore shines in first state meet


Arleigh Doehring

Sophomore Elina Bailey competes in the district championships. She placed in the top 60 at the 5A State Championships.

Gabby Norman, Managing Editor

By Gabby Norman

Out of the 152 girls at the 5A state cross country competition, more than half of the athletes were upperclassmen. Sophomore Elina Bailey outran more than half of the field to finish 58th overall with a time of 19:28.

“I think that the experience was a positive one, where she learned what it’s like to make that trip and run that meet,” coach Cody Cook said. “She did an amazing job and really ‘attacked’ the course. There are many times that the event becomes bigger than the athlete and they run timid. She did not let that happen and she ran very well.”

Going into the state competition, Bailey was nervous, but she trusted herself and Cook’s training and advice.

Her goal was to set a personal record and break the 19-minute mark. She had only reached that mark during the Melon Run, but since it is not at an official meet, it didn’t count under UIL rules.

Bailey said her success is promoted by her support system.

“My team and my family and my coach, they all support me,” Bailey said. “I just have learned to trust the coach’s process, all of his little plans, they really help me.”

Bailey is in cross country, track, and cheer; but cross country is by far her favorite due to the team atmosphere and sisterhood. She is inspired to run by her older sister, who ran at Kingwood Park and graduated in 2019. Bailey intends to return to state and continue to improve over the next few years.

“I was expecting it to be a big meet, but I did much better than I thought I did,” Bailey said.

For now, she will continue to practice and improve her form, which is one of the biggest aspects of her run. One thing that won’t change is her pre-race tradition.

“The braids are something I have to have,” Bailey said. “We braid our hair on the bus before we compete. We really are like a family.”

Cook has big plans for Bailey, including her making another appearance at state. Bailey is the fifth athlete Cook has taken to state in his career, and his third overall.

“She can definitely keep taking time off her 5K and her track event times,” Cook said. “She has a very exciting track season upcoming where I think she is really going to take off.”

Bailey has become a leader on the team, with a quiet but hard-working demeanor.

“Elina is a pillar of our squad,” Cook said. “She brings a lot of quiet confidence to the team and the girls really feed off that. She epitomizes what it’s like to be a student-athlete at Kingwood Park and really shows what hard work and dedication can accomplish.”