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AAA runners have high hopes for state tournament

Numerous local athletes have chance at spots in the Top 10, state titles

Photos by Jay W. Bennett Parkersburg’s Keegan Barnette represents one of the three local Class AAA teams competing at this weekend’s state tournament.

PARKERSBURG — All three area Class AAA programs will be represented at Saturday’s state cross country championships at Cabell Midland High School.

Parkersburg junior Franklin Angelos and Ripley freshman Ellie Hosaflook enter the final race of the campaign ranked second by runwv.com.

“We’re hoping to have two guys finish in the top 10,” admitted Big Red head coach Larry Games, who watched the Mountain State Athletic Conference champ Angelos win the Region IV title while red and white senior Keegan Barnette placed third.

“That would be our first goal. I think that’s realistic. Our guys are only picked to get ninth I believe. We’re just trying to run our best race.”

At last year’s meet, Angelos earned all-state honors by finishing ninth. Barnette will be out to better his 16th place effort from 2019.

Photos by Jay W. Bennett Ripley’s Jadyn Casto (right) represents one of the three local Class AAA teams competing at this weekend’s state tournament.

“They’ve both been very consistent,” Games added. “They’ve both had great offseasons. They’ve both trained really well and they both have very high expectations of themselves and I think they are going to do well.

“They are both really looking forward to it, especially Keegan being his senior year to go out on a good note. I’m expecting them both to have a good race and hopefully they’ll both end up in the top 10.”

While the Big Red thinclads, who also ran Gabe Ray, Matt Carpenter, Ethan Rutherford, Hunter Boice and Evan Jenks at the regional, will be chasing defending state champ Josh Edwards of University, Irene Riggs of Morgantown is the predicted victor for the girls.

“We’re holding out hope,” admitted Viking assistant coach Jimmy Groves of RHS making the podium as a team. “Like I told them Monday, they look at runwv like it’s the gospel. We won our region and we’ve done everything we can.

“We’ve not had one race all year where every girl runs good. If we all ran our best race that would be our only chance to be in the top two. This was the first time we ever won the girls regional.”

Aside from Hosaflook, the Ripley six-person squad also features Opal Huffman, Haleigh McCune, Jadyn Casto, Tori Fisher and Emma Shockey.

“Irene has beaten Ellie and Irene is very, very good,” Groves continued. “Ellie will never give up. Ellie will do her best. I guarantee that it will be a race.”

Last year in Ona, Viking Chase Pepper just missed out on all-state accolades after finishing 14th. He was fifth in the region.

“Chase had a really good race at regionals, 16:30 is as fast as I ever had a boy run on a 5K,” added Groves, who also had Max Meadows qualify to state.

“He looks really good. I’m hoping that he can get into the top 10. He’s going to have a chance to be between five and 10. Those boys are all going to be tight.”

Parkersburg South’s Marimo Akita as well as Big Red Alayna Liebau also will be in the field when the girls race opens the triple-A state meet at 4 p.m. with the boys to follow at 4:45 p.m.

“That’s the main thing. She ran a great race at the regional just to qualify for state,” Games said of his freshman. “The experience of being at the state meet hopefully will help her for the future.

“She doesn’t have a lot of real high expectations, just try to run hard and run her best and get that experience of running in the state meet.”

Despite Edwards being favored to repeat atop the podium, Games knows anything can happen at the state meet.

“Try to run your best race and if the opportunity happens to present itself, go for it,” said the coach. “It kind of happened to Madison (Trippett in 2018).

“The opportunity presented itself for her to win. You have to put yourself in position to take advantage of anything like that that can come up. Just put yourself in a position to excel.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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