Parkerbsurg High XC looks to get back to state

Last year, girls finished 3rd and boys came in 4th

Parkersburg High School’s Ellie Dario returns to the Big Reds after earning Class AAA all-state honors last year. Photo by Jay W. Bennett.

PARKERSBURG — Head coach Larry Games has to be pretty pleased to have the majority of his Parkersburg High runners from last year’s Class AAA state cross country championship meet back this season.

Last year was another good one under Games and his assistants as the Big Red girls finished third in the state meet, while the PHS boys came in fourth at state.

Leading the way for Games’ girls at state last year are four returnees, headed by two in the top-five finishers who were both freshman in third-place Madison Trippett and No. 5 runner Dario Ellie. They earned all-state honors for their efforts.

PHS’ other two state girls scorers were then-junior Katie Farinash at 52nd, followed at 55 by Erin Schumacher, who was a sophomore,

The foursome will be joined this year by junior Olivia Collett, who was an all-stater in 2015 as a mere freshman, but did not finish the 5K (3.1 mile) course last year.

Other PHS girls state placers last year were Kelsey Fleming, 39th, and Julia Collett, 43th.

On the boys’ side, Will Lemaster, Ian Domenick and Brayden Ray all return as seniors after 14th, 20th and 37th places respectively in last year’s state meet, along with now-sophomore Benjamin Lake, who came in 25th as just a freshman.

The Big Reds’ other boys state placers last year were Scott Barker, 42th, and Joel Larsen, 51st, while Andrew Miser did not finish.

“This year we think we can get back to state,” said Games. “Of course to do that, the regional is really important. The goal is we have to to qualify out of the regional, go to the state meet, and equal or even do a little better than we did last year.

“We have a lot of kids back, so we’re thinking — and hope — we can be in that top three or four in the state again this year.”

The Big Red boys never have won a cross country state championship, but have been runners-up several times, while the PHS girls’ last state-title win was in 2000. “It’s been too long,” said Games. “We need to get back up on the podium.”

And with “61 kids out this year, 42 girls and 19 boys,” said Games, that may occur sooner than any later for the Big Reds.

This year’s squad sports “a lot of freshman boys,” noted Games. “There are 14 of them, to only two freshman girls. But we’ve been really happy the first two week of practice. Everybody seems like they’ve been working hard and doing what we ask them to do.

“So we aren’t really sure who’s going to end up in those top seven spots; there’s a lot of competition for that, both boys and girls.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.”

Games, now age 64, started in coaching cross country in 1977, “but there were six or seven years in the 90s that I didn’t coach when my kids were real little,” he said.

So in his two stints, Games has had “about 34, 35 years total coaching cross country and track. It’s a long time,” and has all been at PHS too.

“I taught math at PHS for 39 years and retired three years ago,” said Games, “but I’m still coaching though.”

But coaching is teaching, “and this is fun,” said Games. “I have great assistants in Amelia Wolfe and Sam Vincent, and cross country kids are great kids. So as long as it’s still fun and I’m enjoying it, and as long as my health is good, I’ll continue doing it.”

Games has watched cross country “grow a lot over the years. I attribute that mostly to middle school cross country that got started about 10 years ago. And after that got going, our numbers — because now we had a feeder system — which used to be in the 20s, grew into the 30s and 40s, and now we’re in the 60s.”

PHS opens its cross country season on Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Preston Knights Night Relays at Preston High School.