MINERAL WELLS -What's the biggest sports event in West Virginia this weekend?
The biggest crowd will be in Huntington today, where Marshall University's football team will entertain Gardner-Webb.
But the most athletes will be at the Butcher Bend 4-H Campgrounds at Mineral Wells where the 13th annual Chick-fil-A Invitational will witness more than 1,600 cross country runners participate in races from elementary school to high school.
"We're expecting a record turnout,'' said the meet's founder and race director Dorsey Chevront Jr. As of Friday, 15 Class AAA and 38 Class AA-A high schools had registered along with 42 middle schools.
The field includes most of the state's top programs in each division.
If you think cross country isn't a major sport at some schools, then you probably don't realize that Suncrest Middle School from Morgantown will be entering 87 runners in the meet.
"We were the biggest meet in the state last year,'' said Cheuvront. "We were bigger than the GEICO Invitational at Cabell Midland.'' That looks again to be the case this year.
Races get under way at 9 a.m. when the Class AAA girls varsity and JV event starts off the program. The Class AAA boys will follow at 9:30 a.m.
Next up is the middle school competitions with the girls varsity 6, 7, and 8th grade race at 10 a.m. followed by the boys at 10:30.
After a break to hand out awards for the morning races, elementary girls and boys will get their chance to compete in a three-quarters of a mile event. Middle school JV races will start at noon, with the girls race first, then the boys.
The program will conclude with Class AA-A competitions, the girls at 1 p.m. and the boys at 1:30 p.m.
Among those entered is the state's No. 1 ranked boys cross country runner, Matthew Brafford of George Washington, who recently won the Two Mile Race at the News and Sentinel Half Marathon. He will attempt to break the course record of 15 minutes, 17 seconds set by Wes Smith of Hudson High School in Ohio in 2002.
The best by any West Virginia male runner is the 15:20 by Justin Simpson of Oak Glen that same year. The girls record was set last year by Maggie Drazba of St. Marys High School, who now runs for West Virginia University. She set a standard of 18 minutes, 1 second.