As a child, a curious Cindy Flickinger often watched her local high school cross country team from atop a tree she liked to climb.
As time passed her curiosity grew and she joined the team, eventually becoming an All American long distance runner and on Oct. 12, she will be rewarded for her athletic achievements when she is inducted into the James Madison University Athletics Hall of Fame.
“[This was a] complete surprise. It was very unexpected. It’s been almost 30 years and I had never expected to be inducted,” said Flickinger.
Her first cross country season at JMU began in the fall of 1980, followed by track & field. She remained on the cross country team throughout college and completed her final year on the track & field team after her junior year.
“I think it set into motion the seed that this is where I need to be and each year it convinced me that I could be a college athlete,” Flickinger said.
Recalling the days when she would longingly watch the high school run by her home in Marion, of Southwest Virginia, Flickinger said, her mother urged her to join the team.
“She took me to practice, dropped me off, the girls said they were running six miles and I stayed with them. I grew up in the mountains and always ran up and down hills,” Flickinger said. “When we got back to the school, one of the girls said ‘she kept up with us the entire way’ and it just developed from there. I fell in love with cross country.”
She also joined the high school indoor and high school track & field team after spending time on the middle school team as well.
In high school, Flickinger won a state championship title in track as a freshman, knocking off a defending state champ, and remained as a top place finisher in state championships for the next three seasons each held at JMU. These trips played a part in her becoming a walk-on at the university.
She joined an organization that was soon changing its rules and opponents, from AIW to NCAA her junior season.
“Rough. You are used to placing well and all of a sudden you’re not placing anywhere in the front of the pack, time wise [I was] still doing well for what I was running, but it was a whole different ball game,” said Flickinger. “It was definitely a transition period for us.”
Flickinger said she never considered coaching or teaching, but that changed when her family relocated to Westmoreland County in 1999.
Before the relocation, Flickinger, who majored in art, worked with several architecture firms drafting designs during a 14-year time period.
Starting as a substitute teacher, Flickinger later became an art teacher and a coach for the high school cross country team. She now currently holds two district coach of the year awards.
Cole Vanover, a W&L graduate and current coach of the W&L boys cross country and track & field teams, said as a student he encouraged Flickinger to coach after discussions with her children.
“We had some kids that wanted to run and be good. I knew Cindy had been a runner and one in college, but I had no clue how successful she was,” said Vanover. “She has been very strong for us, very good at delivering and the most organized coach. It’s been a great honor to work with her and very proud just the fact that I know her as she joins JMU’s Hall of Fame.”
Flickinger said her husband Scott, daughter Sara and parents Mary and Hugh Slagle will be joining her for the induction at JMU. Her son Josh will be unable to attend as he is currently serving in the Peace Corps in the Philippines.
Flickinger was recognized as an All-American after a sixth-place finish in the outdoor 1,500 meters at the 1982 Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) National Championships. Slagle also qualified for the national meet in the 3,000 meters that same year and in the 3,200-meter relay in 1981 and 1982. She was the Virginia AIAW 1,500 meters champion in 1981 and 1982 and also a member of the Dukes’ 3,200-meter relay team, which took home top honors in the state in 1982. In 1982, she was the Virginia 1,500-meter run champion after having captured the title in the 800-meter run in 1981. (Source: JMU Athletics)