‘She has focus’: Ironton sophomore excels in classroom, on track, in Scouts

Published 5:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

By Terry L. Hapney, Jr.
The Ironton Tribune

Marlena McCown’s successes cross the classroom, track and Scouting.
“Marlena McCown epitomizes the dedication, determination and spirit you want to see coming from a young person,” Troop 106 Scoutmaster Dr. David M. Lucas said. “She has focus.”
Starting as a Girl Scout in pre- and elementary school, Marlena, daughter of Mark and Anke McCown of Ironton, would meet after school for arts and crafts.
“We would go on trips, too,” she said. “That’s how it started.”
During her sixth-grade year, Lucas visited St. Lawrence Elementary where Marlena attended, presenting what Troop 106 does in Scouting. That’s when Marlena and her brother became interested.
“It looked like a lot of fun how Scoutmaster presented it,” she said.
Joining as a Webelo, Marlena’s goal is to attain Eagle Scout status.
“I’m on the right path,” she said.
Marlena earned Life Scout—just below Eagle Scout. As she ranks up, each level gets tougher. There are waiting times and service-hour requirements for each rank.
Marlena says the most enjoyable part of Scouting includes camping trips and merit badges.
“Also, the sense of achievement after ranking up,” she said. “Passing your Scoutmaster conference is rewarding.”
The most challenging part centers on merit badges.
“You must have different experiences,” she said.
There are 21 Eagle Scout merit badges.
“Those are challenging,” she said. “Hiking was a fun one, but we had to do two five-mile hikes, a 10-mile, a 15-mile and then a 20-mile. It was challenging but fun.”
As far back as she can remember Marlena played soccer—up until seventh grade when she moved to Ironton Middle School from St. Lawrence. IMS didn’t have a soccer team. She began playing basketball in third grade.
Marlena enjoyed herself, but basketball really “wasn’t my sport.”
“Soccer was my priority at that point,” she said.
Another athletics endeavor after moving to IMS was volleyball.
“It was so much fun,” Marlena said.
That was summer during the COVID shutdown. Marlena’s family did not travel.
“I was practicing,” she said. “I was getting better.”
During her seventh-grade year, she played basketball for Ironton. She said it was a lot of “fun,” but she found her passion on the track the following spring.
“That’s when everything moved into place,” Marlena said.
The first time she ran the mile was at Coal Grove at a meet, winning out of all the girls and coming in second place overall among boys and girls.
“That’s when I knew where I was supposed to be,” she said.
Now heading into her sophomore year, Marlena has a goal to run cross country and track in college. She is considering various universities.
“I want to become a pilot,” she said. “There’s that aspect of it—what schools offer aviation that I could run for.”
During the past season she qualified for regionals.
“That was a big goal,” Marlena said. “I was glad I got to do that as a freshman.”
During the season, Marlena improved the school record for the mile. There is also an indoor track season not OHSAA-sanctioned during which she broke the school record for the 800-meter and the 1600-meter.
Marlena, a straight-A student in the College Credit Plus program, also broke the outdoor 1600-meter record for the school. Two high-school freshmen took the ACT for the first time; Marlena was one of them, earning a 30 on it—even without learning subject matter still to come during her sophomore through senior years.
A.J. McKnight, Talented and Gifted coordinator for Ironton City Schools, said all Marlena’s standardized test scores are “excellent.”
“That’s not a surprise,” McKnight said. “She’s reads a lot. I read nonfiction. I asked her for a fiction recommendation. She sent me a list of 20 books. She is always reading.”
Her mother, Anke, said Marlena played golf and soccer this past fall.
“She wants to concentrate on track and cross country now because she is excelling at those two,” she said.
Her father, Mark, said Marlena competed in four sports during her freshman year—golf, soccer, track and cross country.
“My husband and I are not runners,” Anke said. “This is all her. She is completely self-driven.”
Tim Thomas—social studies teacher, girls track coach and cross-country coach at Ironton High—said part of the reason Marlena is successful, athletically, is the result of the same character traits she shows in Scouting and academics.
“She has great character, great integrity,” he said. “She goes about things in the right way. She doesn’t look for shortcuts.”
Thomas said Marlena has a “great mindset” regarding preparation.
“She understands her sport,” he said. “She understands the training philosophy. She’s interested in implementing those in the proper way.”
Thomas said Marlena is also “very talented.”
“As a freshman, she has shown more talent and ability than any other freshman distance runner I’ve had,” he said. “Combine that with her work ethic, integrity and intelligence—it makes for the perfect athletic package.”
Lucas said Marlena sets goals.
“She’s serious about what she wants and pushes to get there,” he said.
Lucas said Marlena breaks records in Scouting, too.
“She’s moving effectively through Scout ranks,” he said. No doubt in my mind; we will be applauding Marlena McCown for years to come.”

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