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’Jacket thinclads are still excited

Girls’ track and field team eyeing state title repeat

File photos Williamstown’s Lilly McMullen competes in the championship heat of a sprint event during the 2019 Class A state championship track and field meet in Charleston. McMullen is one of the many accomplished veterans returning to a stack Yellowjacket squad for 2020.

WILLIAMSTOWN — The past couple of weeks have put area student-athletes to the test. The only game they’re playing is the waiting game. The Williamstown girls’ track team is no exception. The ‘Jackets had big expectations, as the defending Class A state champions did not experience very much turnover in their roster.

The biggest catch to this entire situation is that teams are limited when it comes to how they can practice. Head coach Zach Hall talked about those obstacles, as WHS’s season stays on pause.

“We were really excited coming into this year. I know Lilly McMullen, Ella McMullen and all the other girls we’ve got have been working their tails off during this offseason,” he said. “Everyone was coming in ready. The first couple workouts are nothing to them. They’re ready for this season. It’s just crazy how it all ended. It’s not ended, but it’s leaning toward that way”

The 2019 state track meet was productive for Lilly McMullen, as she built off successful showings in her freshman and sophomore years. Wins in the 200, 400 meters and 4×200 relay capped off her junior year, and a third place showing in the 100 meters only added to her collection of podium finishes. She is one of three seniors on the girls’ side, as Eliza Newton and Sydney Zide also have their senior seasons in question.

The WVSSAC will decide on April 10 what to do with the spring sports season, but the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 makes that date more of a lofty goal than first expected. Like McMullen, Newton participated in last year’s state meet. She notched a 12th place finish in the discus throw in Charleston, as this year could be one where she could build off what she did. Regardless of what the WVSSAC figures to do, Hall and his student-athletes are making the most of their time.

Williamstown’s Ella Hesson leads in the championship heat of a distance event during the 2019 Class A state championship track and field meet. Hesson comes in to the 2020 season after an impressive runner-up finish at the state cross country meet late last year at Cabell Midland High School.

“We sent them workouts, and they do the workouts on their own,” Hall said of what his girls are doing during this off-time.

“We can’t really coach right now. We only lost seven points from last year’s team, and we won by 60, so we were looking pretty good for this year. It just stinks, and the kids know it. We should be there. They were working hard, and then this happened.”

Another reason for the optimism of this team heading into the 2020 season was the amount of younger talent they had. For every Lilly McMullen, Ella Hesson (who won the state title in the 1600 and 3200 meters) and Eliza Newton, a deep group of sophomores gives them depth to compete for another state crown. Ella McMullen found success in multiple relay events throughout her freshman year, and it all culminated in a breakout performance in Charleston. Her multiple relay victories gave Hall reason to be confident.

“That sophomore class could’ve had something. We know (McMullen) was really good on relays last year,” he said. “This year, she was going to do some more open events for us. She looked ready. She was working hard in the offseason with her sister.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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