By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Richmond Hill athletes sign letters of intent for cross-country, basketball
athelte signings rhhs 4-16-23
Lexana Oge (left) and Mary Kyle Kitchens-Hayes (right) signing their letters of intent for college sports. Photo provided by Mike Brown.

It would have been easy for Mary Kyle Kitchens-Hayes to have given up. Fortunately, the Richmond Hill distance runner didn’t and last Wednesday she got her just rewards when she signed a letter of intent to continue her career at Berry College.

Also signing alongside Kitchens-Hayes was girls basketball player Lexana Oge who showed there’s more to playing basketball than scoring. And as a result, she will be playing at Virginia’s Randolph College next year.

“Mary is very well developed,” Coach Levi Sybert said. “She had a few problems as a freshman. It was a rough year as a whole but she really fell in love with running in a group and every year since she’s gotten more confident and more content in what she’s capable of and what she can do.

“She’s consistent and reliable which is wholly different from her start as a freshman.”

While Kitchens-Hayes is another in a long line of Richmond Hill distance runners who have earned an opportunity to take their talent to the next level, Oge getting the opportunity to play basketball in college may come as a surprise to some.

As a senior she averaged 2.1 points per game to go along with 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists, but Randolph coach Steve Lanpher saw a player who excelled on defense and was versatile as he attempts to keep the Lynchburg school competitive in the Division III Old Dominion Athletic Conference.

Lanpher took over a program at rock bottom and after going 14-48 his first three seasons he has seen his teams go 48-25 the last three years.

“I’ve had her for four years and she just continued to grow and grow,” Coach Sarah Jones said. “This year she was a jack of all trades for us. She did a little bit of everything we asked of her to the best of her ability.

“That’s been her character for the last four years. She’s just going to continue to work hard and do great things at the next level. She played post and guard for us depending on the lineup we had in there. She can play several positions which really helps.”

And character is what Hayes-Kitchens, whose best time in the 3,200 this year is 12:08, showed when she made the decision following that tough freshman season to stay with the sport and continue to work to improve.

Getting the chance to run for the Division III Eagles, who entered the season ranked No. 9 in women’s cross country by the U.S. Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association, is the reward for her hard work and perseverance.

It should be noted both girls also excelled in the classroom which further enhanced them to college coaches. Both Berry and Randolph are strong academic schools.

“I’ve done a lot of sports in the past:  tumbling, basketball, dance teams, gymnastics and running,” Kitchens-Hayes said. “I just absolutely fell in love with running. It’s my passion and I just want to keep going forever and ever.

“To be a good distance runner you have to love it,” she said. “You have to love been comfortable with the uncomfortable. Also, having teammates to help you with that is the biggest part in dealing with it.

“Running is not a solo sport. You run as a team.”

The Region 1-7A meet is April 24 at Lowndes County with the top four finishers advancing to the sectional meet on May 4 at Valdosta where the top eight advance to the state meet May 9-11 at Carrollton.

Sign up for our E-Newsletters