South’s Haden McConnell emerges as city’s only AAA state champion

Photo by Jay W. Bennett Parkersburg South’s Haden McConnell upset expectation for other state runners with his surprise state title in the Class AAA 110 Hurdle finals Saturday at Laidley Field in Charleston. McConnell was the city’s only Class AAA state champion.

CHARLESTON –The two biggest schools in Parkersburg were well-represented at the West Virginia Class AAA Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Laidley Field. Athletes from both sides of the river delivered points to their teams, but all eyes were on South’s Haden McConnell during the boys’ 110 meter hurdles.

Predictions for the race had the Patriot senior finishing in sixth, but he proved all the doubters wrong with a little bit of time to spare.

McConnell fought his way to the front of the pack and found himself neck-and-neck with Woodrow Wilson’s Micah Hancock. At the finish line, McConnell (15.04) squeaked past Hancock by .07 seconds.

While he was preparing for another event, McConnell shared his thoughts on the triumph.

“It feels good. It seems like all year, I’ve been seeded fifth or third,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. That whole race was a mental fight at the beginning. It was a physical fight over the hurdles, too.”

Even though both boys’ teams were out of the running for the team title, they both wanted to set personal and team bests on the day.

The Big Reds’ Aaron Kupfner finished fourth in that same hurdles race, as the battle for crosstown supremacy was underway with the capital building serving as the backdrop for the day’s events.

Tyler Moler made the most of his final track meet for PHS. The University of Charleston football commit had a runner-up finish in the 200 (22.28) and a fourth place effort in the 100 (11.48). After his finish in the 100, he reflected on what it took to get to this point.

“I love track and field,” he remarked. “Throughout the entire year, I’ve been busting my butt. Every practice is crazy, and I’m really excited to be out there.”

While the Ripley girls team repeated as AAA champions, a group of Patriots represented the Southside with point-scoring efforts. South’s best track event finish came from the team of Marimo Akita, Hailey Whitehead, Abby Herring and Samara Nunn. They finished fifth in the 4×400 relay. Madi Gersper finished fourth in the high jump, as she beat teammate Erin Williams (sixth place) and secured the top field event finish for her team at the time.

Williams matched Gerper’s effort with a fourth place finish of her own in the long jump. Not to be left out, Parkersburg’s Sophie Thompson scored her teams only points with a fifth place finish in the pole vault.

Back on the boys’ side, the Big Reds scored their first relay points of the day in the 4×400. Ethan Rutherford, Anthony Bradford, Aaron Kupfner and Anthony Perez finished sixth. Rutherford had a fifth place effort in the 400, as that marked the end of scoring for both sides in non-distance events.

For distance events, senior Benjamin Lake (who participated in a team-high four events over the weekend) carried the load for the Big Reds and had a pair of sixth place finishes in the 1600 and 3200 runs. On Friday, Lake teamed with Bradford, Franklin Angelos and Keegan Barnette to finish second in the 4×800. South’s relay group also had a runner-up finish on Friday with the shuttles team of McConnell, Corey Beverage, Landon Francisco and Levi Rice.

Shane Miller of PHS placed sixth in the shot put on day one, and he finished fourth in the discus. That was ahead of teammate Justin Waybright.

Following the meet, PHS coach Rod O’Donnell talked about the improvement his team had in this year’s meet.

“We scored in ten of 13 events,” he said. “I would say that more people scored in this meet than the year we won the state (2014).”

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