PARKERSBURG - The 12th annual Chick-fil-A cross country invitational will get under way at 9 a.m. today at the Wood County 4-H Camp on Butcher Bend Road in Mineral Wells with the Class AA/A boys race.
Parkersburg's boys will be seeking a third straight crown in the Class AAA (big school) division, but is expected to be seriously challenged by Ripley. The Vikings topped the Big Reds of head coach Larry Games during last week's GEICO Classic at Cabell Midland by a mere two points, 89-91. Last year, the Big Red boys defended their title by besting Winfield, 52-58.
"From what I can tell that's what it looks like. I kind of expect Ripley to be very competitive. They have a nice team," said coach Games, who has 50 total members between the boys and girls.
More than three dozen teams will compete at the varsity level today. Following the Class AA/A girls race at 9:30 a.m., there will be middle and elementary school races. The Class AAA boys are slated to run at 12:50 followed by the triple-A girls race 30 minutes later.
"Preston is coming in with their boys and girls and they are very competitive," Games added.
University's girls are the defending champions, but the Hawks are not in the field. That leaves the PHS girls as the top returning team from last year after the red and white finished third behind University and Hurricane, which is also not in the field.
The PHS girls have been led by Kaylee Williams and Rachel Morris in the early portion of the season. Williams was sixth and Morris 10th last year at the Chick-fil-A.
"We've had a lot of movement, but they've definitely been in our top five each time," Games said of the duo. "We had three freshman girls last week run varsity."
The efforts of Nick Musgrave (fifth), Sean Snider (sixth) and Anthony Kist (10th) helped the PHS boys to the team title last year. Musgrave took fourth at the GEICO Classic while teammate Nic Cheuvront was the second fastest Big Red thanks to his 13th place effort.
"Last week we had a couple kids who didn't run their best race," Games said of his boys. "Nic (Cheuvront) ran his all-time best time and it was very hot and humid. I think that was Musgrave's best time ever, too."
If the Ripley boys are to challenge the Vikings will need solid efforts from Chad Longanacre and Caleb Casto. They just missed out on top 10 finishes at Chick-fil-A last year when they came in 11th and 12th, respectively. At the GEICO Classic, Longanacre was eighth and Casto took 11th.
Senior Will Shaffer of Scott High School returns as the defending champion for the Class AA/A boys. The boys team from Oak Hill is in the field and will try to defend their title from a year ago. However, Shady Spring is not in the field and that means a new champion will be crowned for the Class AA/A girls race.
The Ravenswood girls were runner-up last season and could be poised for a championship run today. Hailey Miller was third last year as a freshman while teammates Taylor Treadway (13th) and Hannah Murray (21st) also return as key runners for the Red Devils.
Only two Little Kanawha Conference runners who finished in the top 10 last year return in the Class AA/A boys field. Ritchie County junior Johnny Hogue, who was 24 seconds behind Shaffer, was third in 2011 while Doddridge County senior Caleb Moore will be trying to improve upon his 10th place showing from a season ago.