High-school girls forge friendship during long-distance 'buddy’ races

Going the Distance

CAMPBELL COUNTY, Ky. (FOX19) - It’s not often the loudest cheers are for the runners at the end of a race, but that’s exactly what happened this year at Campbell County cross country meets.

It begins with Tricia Verst, the kid sister of a high-school cross country runner and a longtime fan of the sport, but also a young person living with a rare chromosomal abnormality.

Still, the freshman at Campbell County High School wanted to run cross country.

Tricia’s father, Tom Verst says the team sports “passed her up," but that cross country is an “accepting” sport.

“My thing with Trish, you know, if you’re joining a team, you’re part of the team,” Tom said. “You’re going to train like them. You’re going to work like them, you know, you’re not going to get a pass. So that was the question, how do we motivate Trish?”

That’s where Campbell County High School cross country coach Toni McKee stepped in.

“I sent out an email actually, to our track team to see if there was anyone who maybe didn’t want to run cross country but wanted to stay in shape who would maybe be willing to be a buddy,” McKee said. “And Sydney contacted me in the summer and said, ‘I think I’d like to be her buddy.'"

That’s Sydney McKinney, a senior who says running with Tricia has been not only personally fulfilling, but also a pathway to new friendship.

“So, one of my goals before I left high school was to impact someone’s life. And I was like, ‘I guess it would be fun to have a buddy,'” McKinney said. “So I ran with Tricia this year, and she became one of my best friends.”

It’s just what the Verst family pictured when Tricia set out on her journey.

“One of the blessings of it is, they see her, you know? Not for what she’s not able to do, but they see her for what she’s capable of doing,” Tom said.

Now Tricia is capable of finishing races without stopping. In fact, she ran her best time in the final race of the season.

“I’ll be honest, watching this year has been even more special than I thought it would," McKee said. "Watching just the two of them, the way that they bonded, I might have cried. And I know Sydney is that special, but watching it unfold in person has just been phenomenal.”

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