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  • The Daily American

    Somerset senior inks National Letter of Intent to join PennWest Clarion track program

    By Adam Ripple, The Daily American,


    SOMERSET — Rihanna Hillegass only began competing in track and field in eighth grade. However, she's quickly advanced in the sport.

    This season, Hillegass filled an opening on Somerset's 4x100 relay team, which finished third at the PIAA championships a year ago. Now, Hillegass and company are ranked first in the state in Class 2A.

    Hillegass, who also runs the hurdles and sprints for the Golden Eagles, signed a National Letter of Intent on Friday to attend and compete on the track and field team at Division II PennWest Clarion University.

    "I am really excited," said Hillegass. "I've loved track throughout my high school years. To be able to compete at the college level is really exciting for me."

    There was an instant connection when Hillegass set foot on campus.

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    "The coaches are really nice, and it felt like I was at home on my first visit," she said of Clarion. "The area is very beautiful, and my major is very well-known there."

    Hillegass, who boasts a 4.0-plus GPA, plans to major in accounting and finance. At Somerset, she is a member of National Honor Society, French Honor Society, French Club, Future Business Leaders of American, Environmental Science Club, student council and is a senior class officer. Hillegass was also a member of the soccer team.

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    She is eager for what lies ahead.

    "I'm looking forward to becoming a bigger competitor with a great group of girls who are also good competitors," Hillegass said. "I'm also looking forward to being a part of and building a new, fun team with them."

    Competing in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference against stellar athletes has helped prepare Hillegass for college competition.

    "They're all really good athletes," she said. "They push me to be better and help me get (personal records), which I already have this year."

    She thanks Somerset girls coach Melissa Wilson and Somerset assistant Dave Polcha for always pushing her to do her best.

    Wilson was at the helm of the Conemaugh Township track and field program for 10 years and is now in her second season leading the Somerset girls. Wilson knows talented athletes when she sees them, and Hillegass is certainly one of them.

    "I met Rihanna when she was a freshman, so I began helping her out then," Wilson said. "Her biggest asset is that she never gives up. She always has the attitude of redemption, wanting to do better and to PR."

    Wilson believes Hillegass has the intangibles to succeed at the collegiate level.

    "She is a great teammate. She gives great input, demonstrates the drills in practice and shows the way for the hurdlers. She will be an asset at Clarion, and she will be a good fit for their program. She's definitely going to be missed at Somerset."

    Adam Ripple is the Daily American sports editor. He can be reached at 814-444-5926. Follow him on X @ARipple_DAsport. Follow Daily American Sports on Facebook and @dailyamericanmedia on Instagram.

    This article originally appeared on The Daily American: Somerset senior inks National Letter of Intent to join PennWest Clarion track program

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