When Ericka Skinner announced her intentions to continue her running career at Barton College in North Carolina, many in the Ohio Valley had probably never heard of it.
Skinner - a 2010 Harrison Central graduate - has certainly done her part to put it on the map locally.
The former NCAA Division II National Cross Country qualifier has been raking in awards seemingly all spring for her exploits both on the cross country trail as well as the track.
Recently, Skinner was named as the Barton College Female Athlete of the Year, which is the highest award an athlete can receive.
"I was definitely surprised when I received athlete of the year," Skinner said. "I knew I had accomplished a lot, but I honestly didn't think I would get the award because most of the recipients are almost always seniors."
Skinner's accomplishments made the Barton coaches quickly forget she's still got two more years of eligibility remaining.
In cross country last fall, Skinner finished in the top 10 in all but one of the meets she entered and won a pair of individual titles.
She was recognized as cross country All-Conference Carolinas and All-Southeast Region with fourth and eighth-place finishes, respectively. Twice, last season, Skinner was named cross country runner of the week in the conference.
In track and field, Skinner won the Conference Carolina title in both the 800 and 1500 meter run. She also earned herself a spot on the all-region team.
Skinner was named her team's MVP in both sports.
"I have worked very hard to get where I am today and it's nice to be recognized," Skinner said. "I am blessed to have great teammates, who are driven. I think we'll be pretty tough next year."
While Skinner didn't believe the award would come to fruition, she had many friends and teammates telling her all along that it was her award.
"The recipient of the award is totally confidential," Skinner said. "It's voted on by the entire coaching staff of the college. Though people were telling me that I had a good shot at winning, I never expected it."
Skinner, who was an all-Ohioan in high jump as well as a standout distance runner during her prep days with Harrison Central, was highly complimentary of the coaching and support system at Barton.
"The support from my coach and the faculty at Barton is unreal," Skinner said. "I am truly blessed to be around such great people, who are preparing me to succeed. I've grown a lot mentally and will be training hard this summer as always. I really trust my coaches' judgement, as far as training goes. She knows how I work and will have me well prepared."
One of Skinner's teammates next season will be current Harrison Central senior Lauren Yoho who recently signed her National Letter of Intent to run for the Lady Bulldogs.
Skinner reports that classes are "going extremely well" as she continues with a double major in biology and psychology. If those aren't enough, she's minoring in religion and philosophy.
"I really enjoy what I study and it definitely reflects in my grades," Skinner said.
Currently, Skinner is in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina working on a field biology trip.
WHY ALL THE CHANGE?
Coaching any sport can be a tough challenge. Regardless of how you look at it, coaching is a tough job.
Being a varsity head football coach is extremely tough and demanding. Basically, if you're going to do it right, it's become a 12-month job. And during the actual season, it's a full-time job along with their teaching or other work duties.
Maybe that's why there's been such a turnover this off-season in high school coaches in the Ohio Valley. Of the 48 OVAC schools, which offered football last fall, 13 will have new coaches on the sideline when the season kicks off in August.
That number may seem astronomical, but I think it's also a sign of the times. Let's be honest, the days of coaches spending 20-30 years at a school like Jay Circosta, Reno Saccoccia and Dave Bruney are basically gone. While it's unfortunate, it's just the facts.
Staskey can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @TLSportsSeth