PARKERSBURG - Today begins the quest for cross country teams throughout West Virginia to qualify for the state tournament set for Saturday, Nov. 3 in Ona.
The number of team entries which toe the line to start each race will determine how many full teams from each region qualify for the state meet. Even if a runner isn't on an advancing team, the top 10 runners inclusive of the qualifying teams still advance.
Locally, both the Wood County 4-H Camp off Butcher Bend Road in Mineral Wells as well as Ripley's Cedar Lakes will have regional qualifiers taking place today.
In Mineral Wells, both the Class AAA and Class AA/A Region I meets will be held. Ripley will be the host site for the Class AA/A Region IV meet as well as the triple-A Region III qualifier.
Two-time defending Class AAA girls state champion Morgantown begins its road to a title defense at 3 p.m. today in Mineral Wells. With three teams predicted to get out, the Mohigans and University are expected to be the top two with Preston, Parkersburg and Parkersburg South vying for the other spot. If neither South nor PHS advance as a team, Big Red Rachel Morris and the Patriot duo of Ally McCulley and Allison Currey still could qualify.
"We have to run really well," said PHS head coach Larry Games when asked whether his girls could advance as a team. "Whichever of the three schools who run well is going to be the third team.
"The regional meet is really like a series of dual meets between us and South and us and Preston. We have to focus on it like that and how we match up position for position."
It appears as though the PHS boys, who are led by Nic Cheuvront and John Bolten, should make it out. University is expected to win the Class AAA boys race, which should start at 3:30 p.m. and wraps up the afternoon.
"Nothing is ever for sure," cautioned coach Games. "But, if we run well we should be in the top three."
Beginning at 2 p.m., the Class AA/A girls race will take place and four schools should make it to Ona since any region with 10 or more full teams starting is allowed to send a quartet of programs. Two-time defending Little Kanawha Conference girls champion Williamstown, which has been paced by the strong running of Cami Mosser, Andrea Chidester, Allie Robinson and Shealee Mosser, are expected to win. The Bulldogs from Doddridge County, who got top 15 efforts from Megan Carder, Savanah Ferguson and Alexis Leggett at the LKC meet, also is expected to advance as a team.
Top candidates from the Mid-Ohio Valley who could reach the state tournament as individuals include Tyler Consolidated's Amber Watson and St. Marys' Alex Gorrell.
The Class AA/A race for the boys is set for 2:30 p.m. and with more than 10 full teams on hand there will be four make it to the final meet of the season. Fairmont Senior is predicted by runwv.com to finish as the victor, but LKC champion Ritchie County and conference runner-up Williamstown should vie for second place.
Ritchie County is led by expected state champion Johnny Hogue. Chandler Antill has been Williamstown's top runner this fall. A pair of LKC runners - Trey Heaster of Doddridge County and Dylan Reynolds of Tyler Consolidated - could find their way to Ona as well via the individual qualifying route.
At Ripley, the girls AA/A meet starts at 2:45 p.m. and will be followed by the boys at 3:30 p.m., the Class AAA girls at 4:15 p.m. and finally the triple-A boys at 5 p.m.
Roane County's boys, who got first team all-LKC efforts from Caleb Pell and Caleb Shirey, along with Ravenswood's girls, who got first team all-LKC finishes from champion Hailey Miller and fourth-place Taylor Treadway, could very well make it out as a team. Wirt County's Glenn McMillan is aiming for a return to the state meet and Tiger teammate Brady Ohrn could factor in as well.
Jake Casto leads the Ripley boys, who are expected to advance. The Viking girls, who could advance as a team, has been paced by Haley Ford.