PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A calf in Wood County spends its Wednesdays helping a local cross country team train by running with it on a homemade course.
Parkersburg South High School’s cross country team trains every Wednesday at the Lemon family farm off Lost Pavement Road. Izabell, a calf, has been running with the cross country team since August.
Izabell was born on March 18. Her mother did not have enough milk to give Izabell, so the Lemons bottle fed her.
When the South cross country runners arrived in August for their first practice, Izabell walked right in the middle of their huddle, said Debbie Lemon, who owns the Wood County farm with her husband, John Sr. The coach was not sure if when they yelled “South” whether Izabell would run; the runners said let’s yell “Izabell” on 3.
Coach Jason Evans warned the students that she might run when they yelled so he told them to be prepared. Instead when they yelled, Izabell stood still as if she was part of the team.
On days that are not extremely hot when the runners are doing their warm-up exercises Izabell will stand among them. She also will run down the Lemons’ driveway and across the cattle guard to stay with the team.
She also will run along the fence, which is part of the course, if she cannot get into the big field with them. Izabell will let out a “moo” when the runners turn the corner away from her as if to say “hey wait for me,” Debbie Lemon said.
The Lemon have opened their farm to the South cross country team for the past 10 years since their son John Jr. was on the squad from 2007-2010.
Cameron Marks of the Parkersburg South High School cross country team said “Izabell makes you work harder when she runs the two and a half mile fields with you, because you don’t want to get beat by a calf.”
The cross country runners are very respectful, said John Sr.
Debbie said opening their home to the team has been a rewarding experience. “We have never had any issues with any of the students,” said Debbie.
The Lemons created a homemade course for the team to train on. The course is a little over three miles long, with hills and other obstacles for the team to practice on. Jasmine Morris of the Parkersburg South High School cross country team spent some time on crutches. “My first day back Izabell ran next to me down the hill; she makes the farm feel like home,” she said.
The Lemons have placed homemade signs with encouraging slogans along the course to encourage the high school runners.
Evans said he appreciated that the Lemon family opens their home to the team; they provide water for the team and sometimes cook them dinner as well.
Evans said the team meets at the Lemons farm every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to run and train.
The Lemons are huge fans of the Parkersburg South cross country team. When John Sr. bought a new Yamaha utility task vehicle in 2014, he made sure it was blue, like the school’s color, and he put the Parkersburg South cross country team logo decals on the hood of the UTV.