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Maggie Walker’s Mary Caroline Heinen was named All-Metro cross country runner of the year three consecutive times and raced to several state titles in track.

During a two-month stretch of her sophomore cross country season, Mary Caroline Heinen cut two minutes off her personal record and realized she was an athlete after all. She had tried a number of sports and activities over the years, ranging from basketball to volleyball, dance and swimming. None was a good fit, she found.

“I’d never really been good at other sports,” Heinen said.

When she arrived at Maggie Walker GS as a freshman, she decided to give cross country a try. Her friend, Alyssa Wright, was joining the team, so Heinen would, too. Heinen found out that year that she wasn’t so bad at running. She finished in the middle of the pack often and crossed the finish line anywhere between fifth place and 100th.

Then, in the first race of her sophomore season, something strange happened. She finished runner-up, just one-tenth of a second off the winner. She realized that day that she was capable of winning high school cross country races. Three weeks later, she won her first race, and her personal record kept falling, from 19 minutes, 59 seconds as a freshman to 18:38 at the beginning of her sophomore year to 18:01 by mid-October.

“It was kind of unbelievable to me,” she said.

She won her first of three state titles that year, her first of three All-Metro runner of the year honors and her first of three Junior Olympic national titles.

The rest, you might say, is history.

Heinen is graduating Maggie Walker now with her sights set on Columbia, where she will continue to run. By virtue of her 4.64 GPA, her five honor society memberships, her 1540 score on the SAT and her numerous hours spent volunteering, Heinen is the 2020 Richmond Sports Backers and Richmond Times-Dispatch girls scholar-athlete of the year. She receives a scholarship of $5,750.

Megan Mann, a shot putter and discus thrower from Lee-Davis, was named the runner-up. Mann was the best shot putter in the state and the 19th best in the country during her senior indoor season with a mark of 44 feet, 5 1/4 inches. She will compete for Liberty next year.

Lindsay Corrigan of Colonial Heights was named the winner of the Cheryl L. Oliver memorial scholarship. Corrigan was a member of the soccer and volleyball teams and built a 4.34 GPA. She’ll attend Christopher Newport University in the fall.

Heinen ran track, too, competing in middle-distance and long-distance events. Her times in the two-mile (10:42.13) and the 3000m (10:04.50) were the best in the state this year during the indoor season. She racked up six indoor state titles and four outdoor state titles during her high school years, and she holds numerous school records.

The feeling of winning has never gotten old, even if she’s done it dozens of times.

“No matter how many times I win, each time it’s like I can’t believe I did that, even if I knew I could,” she said.

She picked Columbia for her college for numerous reasons. To begin with, she doesn’t like warm weather. Also important are its academic reputation and the fact that its cross country team won the Ivy League championship last year. Plus, she immediately clicked with the team when she met them, and she has family near by.

Heinen wants to major in mechanical engineering, and her dream job is to be an engineer for an athletic apparel company like Nike, designing clothes or shoes. Innovating the latest prototype for a running shoe or the next technological development in athletic gear seems like the right fit for Heinen. She’s an athlete, after all.

The other eight girls scholar athlete finalists, who receive $2,500 each: Sydney Whiting, Trinity Episcopal; Willa Shannon, St. Catherine’s; Samantha Finnegan, Maggie Walker GS; Jailah Channer, St. Catherine’s; Rachel Crytser, Hanover; Bailey Hairfield, Cosby; Courtney Isley, J.R. Tucker and Emma Grace Ficara, Clover Hill.

Reporter

Eric Kolenich is a news and sports reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008 with a BA in English and joined the paper in 2009. (804) 649-6109

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