In any activity or sport, dedication will carry an individual a long way in life.
South Webster senior Grace Raison, however, is so highly regarded as a worker that dedication may as well be in her middle name. The cross country and indoor/outdoor track and field standout parlayed her relentless work ethic and a humble attitude into an opportunity to run with the cross country program at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky. last Thursday in a signing ceremony that was held at South Webster High School in front of family, friends, classmates, and fellow teammates.
For Raison, the ability to keep running and attend a place that is special to not only herself, but her family (her sister, Emily, attended Asbury) is a big deal.
“I’m excited,” Raison said. “Asbury’s a really special place in a special community, so I’m excited to get to go and join them.”
However, the opportunity that Raison has in front of her is one that South Webster cross country/track and field coaches Tim Conley and Josh Horner, along with Asbury cross country head coach Randy Crist, know is a well-deserved opportunity.
“Mentally, you’re looking for not only a person that can impact your team, but you’re looking for a person that can be a leader and can help make practice enjoyable for everybody,” Crist said. “You’re looking for people that are leaders in the classroom, and she’s a great student there. Finally, you’re looking for people that can stand out and be a leader or have a value to a team, even when they may not make an impact with their running right away. I believe that Grace will eventually, but right off of the bat, her personality, along with the type of person that she is, will bring a lot to the team.”
“Grace is in every club coming and going, she is on our cross country, indoor track, and track and field roster, and she is likely going to be our valedictorian, so it’s really nice to see her get recognized for all of the hard work that she’s put in,” Conley said. “She epitomizes what it means to be an overachiever.”
“It’s awesome to have girls that have ran over the last four years to be able to get to run at the next level,” Horner said. “Grace is just top-notch academically and athletically in the running world here for us, and it’s been a true blessing to watch her grow up, come up through the years, and run. She’s shown great senior leadership, and she’s a true worker.”
During her four-year varsity career, Raison’s accomplishments on the track have been impressive in their own right. The senior, who, like recent Shawnee State signees Kayleigh Blevins and Hailey Marshall (an alternate member), was a member of last year’s record-setting 4-by-800 relay unit. Raison also is a member of the school’s 4-by-400 record-setting unit, who put together a time of 4:35.69 in 2016, and sits in the top-10 in program history in the 100, 200, 400, and 800 meter dashes as well as the 4-by-200 relay squad. On the cross country side of the coin, the senior standout put together a overall best mark of 22.10 in the 5K, and made the All-SOC Second-Team at the conference meet last October.
“It’s been a great experience,” Raison said of her time inside both South Webster programs. “I started running when I was in junior high, and just always loved participating in track. When I started cross country in high school, that love for both cross country and track grew as I started to get more involved with both aspects of running.”
“Grace can come in and help us,” Crist said. “She just ran a 6:17 last week in the mile in indoor competition, and that’s at a point where she can help us with just a little bit of improvement. She seems to be interested enough in improving, which is what we need over the next couple of years. We need her to drop a couple of minutes off of her 5K time, but she wants to do that and she’s got the ability to do that, so it’s going to be a good fit for us and her.”
However, the real win for Asbury is the type of student that they are landing outside of the cross country and track realm.
In addition to her excellent grades, as evidenced by her consistency on the All A Honor Roll list, Raison is a member of the school’s Mock Trial team, who advanced to regional competition behind the work of the senior, who won an Outstanding Attorney award for the Jeeps, and has participated in charity work with The Broken Need A Healing, where Raison, along with her cross country and track teammates, have helped make hot dogs and hamburgers and have given away clothing to those in need. Raison also regularly participates in 4-H, as well.
“I don’t know if I’ve had a kid get more out of her ability than what Grace has,” Conley said. “She really gives it her all and goes above and beyond what most kids push through. That’s a testament to her upbringing and who she is as a person, and I believe that Asbury is lucky to get her. Very lucky.”
Need any more proof that Raison is a Grade A person? Before the signing, the senior — who has developed a tight bond with sixth-grader Hunter Slack through hallway greetings as the pair are heading to class — invited Slack, the daughter of guidance counselor secretary Judy Slack — to the signing ceremony.“It’s not because she’s an athlete, either,” Conley said. “Hunter knows nothing about Grace’s athletic achievements. It’s simply because Grace is a nice person. That’s going to take Grace further in life than anything else. We’re only athletes for such a short period of time.”
“Hunter participates in 4-H and other activities with me,” Raison said. “I always see her in the hallway, and I just thought, ‘Hey, maybe she’d like to come.’”
At Asbury, Raison will get to learn under one of the more well-renown coaches that the state of Kentucky has to offer.
In more than three decades of coaching, Crist has coached three Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) state champions in cross country and 22 additional track and field state championship runners in stops at Anderson County and West Jessamine. He’s already led the Eagles to an NAIA Championship appearance in 2014, and hasn’t guided Asbury to any worse than a third-place showing in any of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference or the River States Conference Championship Meets that have taken place during his tenure as the head coach of the program, which started in 2010 — and that arguably is because of the quality students that he has recruited into his program.
“In cross country, you need people that are outgoing and fun,” Crist said. “I don’t know Grace well yet like I’m going to in two, three, or four years from now, but when we met, she was so easy to talk to and she was so enthusiastic. Cross country, at its heart, is just a whole lot of hard work, so you’ve got to have people at practice who can smile, laugh, and keep things fun. I believe she’s going to be one that can contribute in that way.”
The South Webster faithful, however, already know that Raison will be exactly what Crist is looking for as far as his cross country program is concerned.
“It’s going to be huge,” Conley said. “There’s going to be many holes to fill, and not so much from an athletic standpoint as much as from a leadership standpoint. You can always plug in another athlete, but you can’t plug in another Grace Raison, Sydney McCoy, Kayleigh Blevins, or Hailey Marshall. Athletes are one thing. Leaders are totally different. You don’t get leaders like those four that often.”
“Grace has been phenomenal,” Horner said. “She’s been a great student, a great athlete, and just an all-around great kid. It’s a coach’s dream to have kids like her that just step into their roles well, no matter what role you put on them. Whether she’s a distance runner, a sprinter, a team leader, or a complimentary piece to a team, she’ll take it in stride and never question you in any way, shape, or form on what her role is. You tell her to do something, it takes one time, and she does it. She’s an awesome, awesome kid.”
And Grace Raison is somebody who is looking forward to the new challenges that lie ahead — because those challenges have allowed the senior to accomplish more than even she could imagine.
“It’s really cool,” Raison said. “I’m excited to keep running, and it’s going to be a new experience.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT