PARKERSBURG - Despite a small overall roster, first-year Parkersburg South head cross country coach Jason Evans is taking things in stride this season.
The Patriots, who normally compete at the annual Chick-fil-A Invitational in Mineral Wells, won't be attending that event this Saturday. Instead, Parkersburg South is heading to the Brooke Invitational where the Patriots will square off against squads from both the Two Rivers Athletic Conference and the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference.
Without question, the top cross country athlete for the Patriots this season is senior April Kirk.
Last weekend at the sixth annual GEICO Classic Invitational, Kirk finished in fourth place and posted a time of 20 minutes and 21 seconds.
"April was fourth in the triple-A division and two weeks ago at the Autumn Classic she was third," coach Evans said. "She lives in my neighborhood and I can attest to the fact she worked all offseason and she's worked hard so far this season and it shows. She's working hard and I think she's going to be right there come regionals."
Coach Evans understands the most important thing for him to do in order to make the Patriots competitive at the state level is to get participation up. Rival Parkersburg High School has almost three times as many cross country participants as the Patriots do.
"Our numbers, I've got 10 boys and eight girls," admitted the coach. "I'm just trying to see what I got and hopefully as we go forward we'll build the numbers.
"Right now, I'm really pleased with what the kids are doing. The kids have better times now than where they were last year at this time."
Parkersburg South's other top female runner to date has been junior Rachel Teter, who medaled by finishing 23rd at the GEICO Classic Invitational.
"Rachel is working hard in practice," Evans added while noting, "the numbers are definitely not on my side at this point.
"I've got 18 and he (PHS head coach Larry Games) has 50, but that's all right. If I had more numbers it would probably be easier."
Although coach Evans knows the cross country season is just now starting to heat up, he's looking for consistency from all of his runners. Thus far, junior Derek Dillon and sophomore Tylor Brown are leading the Patriot boys.
"Honestly, I've got five or six guys who are really packed together there so to speak," said Evans, who is a math teacher at Parkersburg South and coached cross country at Edison the previous six seasons. "I really like where our guys are at because they are so close together. It's definitely something I can work with."