By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — Covington girls track and field coach David Tobias knows when he is coaching a special athlete.
And he sees those qualities in Covington senior Rayna Horner, who recently signed her letter of intent to run for the University of Toledo.
“Jackie (Akron University All-American Jackie Siefring) was a special kid, you could see that,” Tobias said. “And you can see a lot of those things in Rayna (Horner).”
In fact Horner — who came to Covington as a sophomore — has always taken notice of Siefring, Covington girls track first state champion.
“Jackie (Siefering) is a big inspiration for me,” the daughter of Dave and Kami Horner, said. “I have always looked up to her. Every since I came to Covington. She is awesome.”
And Tobias understands why Horner feels that way.
“She is small-town girl who made it big,” Tobias said about Siefring. “And not just big — now she is trying our for Olympic teams. I think Rayna saw that when she came here and it motivated her.”
Horner showed her potential as a sophomore, just missing qualifying for state in the 400.
She followed it up with an outstanding junior season.
She set the school and D-III district record in the 400 with a time of 57.92 and was was on the school record 1,600 relay team with a time of 3:59.74.
She won league, district and regional titles and made two trips to the podium at state — finishing sixth in the 400 and seventh on the 1,600 relay team (with Morgan Lowe, Breanna Kimmel and Paige Boehringer).
And with one year left at Covington, she looks forward to joining Linh Nguyen’s program at Toledo.
Horner, who has a 3.7 GPA, received both academic and athletic scholarships and plans to major in social work.
“I wanted the high intensity of a Division I program,” Horner said. “I didn’t want to go Division III. I wanted to be coached hard because I take this seriously and Toledo has a great program.”
Tobias has already witnessed that in Horner.
“You can have the ability,” he said. “But, you still have to work hard at it, be willing to do workouts and things like that on your own and Rayna (Horner) has done that. You talk about track being a team sport and it is, but there is a lot of individual in it. It is great for the other girls to see (Horner being rewarded).”
And Horner plans to add another weapon to her arsenal this spring, running the 800 for the first time.
“I am going to run the 800 this year,” Horner said. “I have only every run it a couple of times, so we will see how that it goes. I think it is (interesting) to run a different event. I will probably run more 400 and 800 this year, instead of 400 and 200. It is something Toledo wants me to do.”
Tobias expects her to do well in the event.
“We are going to be asking Rayna (Horner) to do some things she hasn’t done before,” Tobias said. “And I think she will run some really good times in the 800 — I don’t think she thinks she will —but, I think she will. And we plan to have a really good 3,200 relay team this year. I think running the 800 will help her in the 400 as well.”
For Horner, it was a relief to get her college decision made.
“People don’t understand everything involved with the recruiting process, the paperwork, the visits all that stuff,” Horner said. “It is like a big weight on your shoulder and once you have made the decision it is done. Once the decision is made, you know where you are going to be (the next four years).”
And Horner said the choice to become a Rocket was an easy one.
“I really liked everything about Toledo,” she said. “The biggest thing with my decision was the the coaches and the team. It was so much better than any of the other places I visited. Even when I was running before junior high, it was also a dream to run in college.”
And become the next “small town” girl to make it big.
Rob Kiser is the Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.