PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg South will host a Class AAA regional track meet today for the first time ever at the Erickson All-Sports Facility, with field events starting at 4:30 p.m. and the running events at 5 p.m.
The eight schools competing to qualify individuals and relay teams for next week's state meet in Charleston are Parkersburg High and host South along with Morgantown, University, John Marshall, Wheeling Park, Brooke and Preston. Five of the schools are ranked in the top 10 in the state.
For PHS boys head coach Rod O'Donnell, "our expectations for the regional, No. 1, is to get as many people to Charleston as we can."
With that being his "primary concern" today at Erickson, O'Donnell and his coaches "have tried to place the boys so we have the most opportunities to get the most people to the state."
Of course, O'Donnell "would like to win the regional too. But at the same time, we have to get lots of people to Charleston, if we expect to do well down there. So that's what's really important today."
The PHS boys contingent is led by senior sprinter Chandler Hamilton in the 100 and 200, and the shuttle hurdle relay team along with the 4 by 200, 4 by 400 and 4 by 800. "Those relay teams really have do well today," said O'Donnell, who also mentioned seniors Evan Rhodes and Landon Miller in the hurdles, juniors Dan Fox and Nic Cheuvront, sophomore Erik Musgrave and freshman Logan Wooddell as those "who have the best chances for us today."
Fox is seen by O'Donnell as a state contender too in the long jump.
"It's been a good year for us, and hopefully it will go on for two more weeks," said O'Donnell.
For the Big Red girls, shot put and discus state contender in junior Whitney McAtee is back to compete today after taking last week off from the MSAC meet "to make sure she'd be ready for the regional after having some issues with her back and shoulder," said PHS head coach Leah Fleak. McAtee has already set the school record this year of 128-0 in the discus and is just a couple inches from a new school mark in the shot put.
Sarah Bever, another junior, comes into today after setting an MSAC meet record of 46.41 in the 300 hurdles, and also won the 100 high hurdles last week.
"We expect everyone to do well today," said Fleak. "I told our girls their job today is to compete, to show up with the confidence that you belong there."
In addition, "our shuttle (hurdle) team has done excellent all year, setting records in several meets," said Fleak. "And we have three girls - Bever, (sophomores) Lauren Leaman and Lauren Maloney - who could all go to the state in the 100 highs and 300 hurdles along with the shuttle team."
Fleak is hoping too that senior distance runners Rachel Morris and junior MaryKat Bolton in the 800 get to the state, as well as the Big Red 4 by 800 relay team.
South head girls coach Shawn Shockey's "goal is to qualify as many people for the state as we can."
Last year, then-junior Kasey Williams got to the state. Today, she's competing in the 100, 200, 4 by 100 and 4 by 200 to get there again. Williams is currently ranked in the top three in the state in the 100 and 200.
Other 2013 state qualifiers were now-seniors Kristin Wilson and Lacey Cale in a couple relays.
"We had the strongest showing we've ever had at the OVAC (meet) last week, with a fourth-place finish out of 41 scoring teams," said Shockey. "So we're looking to build upon that for the regional.
"For us, the relays have been our strongest suit all year," led by Williams and sophomore Katelyn Byrd in both the 4 by 100 and 4 by 200.
Shockey too sees seniors Brittany Boso in the shot and discus and Courtney Kemp in the shot as state possibilities.
"And everybody has been improving every meet," said Shockey. "Times have been getting better and the distances getting farther.
"We tried to set up our practices to peak at the end (of the season), so we feel that we're on track. We've got one or two strong individuals or more in every event. That balance is what's made us a strong team right now."
Senior Dylon Rippeto is a prime state contender for the South boys. Last week, he won both the OVAC shot put at 51 feet, the best in the state right now, and discus at 165-0. "His distances in both have gotten consistently better all year," said South head boys coach Steve Fox, who even has two more state discus contenders in sophomores Stoney Nelson at 137-0 and Tim Ferguson from 133 to 135.
In the long jump, South not only has senior Josh Enoch at 20-3, but even better with junior Anthony Bibbs, in the top two in the state, at 21-3, in addition to junior Dashan Barber at 19-8.
Also, Patriot junior Evan DeGraef is "one of the best high-jumpers in West Virginia," according to Fox, at a height of 6-6.
"Our relays have done extremely well," said Fox, "from our shuttles through our 4 by 100 and 4 by 200 - both ranked third or fourth in the state - and a 3:33 time by our 4 by 400."
In the 110 hurdles, the Patriots have junior Vincent Scalise, rated fifth or sixth in the state, and junior Micah Boles in the 300 intermediate hurdles who's the top six in the state.
In the 400, Fox has senior Wyatt Parsons and juniors Brendan Schwendeman and Trea Sargent, all of whom can run under 55 seconds and sometimes under 53.