Emily Covert began running early in elementary school, jogging with her parents and older brother around Lake Nokomis.
This year, she will finish one of the great careers in Minneapolis high school running history.
Covert was the state girls’ cross-country champion last fall and has appeared in the state meet every year since seventh grade. The senior also won a state track-and-field title in the 3,200-meter race this past spring, breaking a 12-year-old state record by about three-quarters of a second.
Altogether, Covert has appeared in every state cross-country and track-and-field meet since seventh grade and has earned 10 top-10 finishes in 13 events. She’s also competed in multiple national meets and took second at a national event earlier this summer.
Covert and her teammates started practice for the upcoming cross-country season Aug. 13.
Covert said she initially was inspired to take up running because of her older brother, Chris, who also competed on the Washburn team. She showed immediate promise after joining the team as a seventh-grader, Washburn coach Curtis Johnson said, winning the conference title that year and earning a spot in the state meet.
Covert said she wasn’t overwhelmed heading into that first state meet but recognized that it was “something new.” She took 24th out of 174 runners in the meet and was the only seventh-grader in the top 60.
The next year, Covert took fifth in the state cross-country meet, improving upon her time by over 30 seconds. She said she set different goals each season and that she realized how much she loved the sport after struggling during her sophomore year.
“It just made me train very hard over the winter,” Covert said, noting a second-place finish in the state 3,200-meter race that spring.
Covert said she entered the cross-country season last fall feeling like she could win state if she put her mind to it. She won the Roy Griak Invitational early in the fall and subsequently won the section championship in late October.
In the state-championship race, Covert broke away from her closest competitor near the end to win by over four seconds, becoming the first female Minneapolis Public Schools student to win the cross-country title.
Covert entered the spring season with the goal of winning the 3,200 race, after taking second by three-tenths of a second the previous year. She started the season strong, breaking the state record during an indoor meet in early spring, and entered the state meet with the fastest qualifying time in the 3,200.
Covert built a sizeable lead heading into the final lap of the 3,200 at the state meet, at which point she realized the record was within reach. She said cleared her mind and focused on running as fast as she could for that lap, eventually crossing the finish line with a new state record.
Covert continued her strong season the following week, taking second in the 2-mile event at the New Balance National Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. She also attended Nike Elite Camp in Portland, Oregon, in June, training alongside the top runners in the country.
She said she’s aiming to break some of her personal records in the coming year, noting less of a focus on breaking state records than bettering herself.
Covert is one of several strong returning runners for the Washburn team. The team also returns senior Grace Dickel, who took 13th in state last year, and senior Caleb Haugland on the boys’ side, who finished 10th last year.
Johnson said Covert is a good talent to have on the team and that she demonstrates a great work ethic, noting that she applies herself at every practice. He said the coaches sometimes have to work on reining her back to ensure that she has time to recover at practice.
“She’s really developed an ability to really focus a little bit more,” he added.
Covert said she plans on running for a Division I college after high school, though she’s undecided on where at this point. She said she’s confident about the talent on the Washburn team this year, noting strong underclassmen.
The team is scheduled to begin its season with a race on Aug. 24.