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Ritchie boys hope to compete for state title

ELLENBORO — Three is a magic number, and on Saturday, the Ritchie County boys look to win their third consecutive Class A title at the state cross country meet in Ona. The coronavirus has turned the season upside down in the LKC, as multiple teams have seen their seasons changed in an instant. Ritchie County is no exception.

A positive test last week at the high school meant one of the runners (who at the time of this story has not been named) had to be quarantined after coming in contact with the positive student. Still, the defending champion Rebels are fielding seven boys on the biggest stage. Head coach Holli Vaughan is confident in her team’s ability to run cohesively as a group. It’s a chance for RCHS to cement a dynasty, and the team is using its depth as an advantage over some top-tier opponents.

The next person was just a couple seconds behind the one in front of them, so our eighth runner (Dalton Hayes) was ready to step right in. We raced with him at regionals, and he performed really well” Vaughan said. “Our team’s been very fluid all year. All of our top ten had interchanged throughout the year, so really our top seven, sometimes we won’t know who that will be until the night before the state meet. I like to keep them all practicing and ready to go for the state meet.”

Hayes, a senior, has experience at a high level. His inclusion to this year’s state team was a seamless transition, as the rest of the boys are also ready to race. Four of Ritchie’s five seniors are running, but despite a veteran presence, Vaughan doesn’t want them getting comfortable.

Namely, the threat of Doddridge County is right around the corner. Anything can happen on Saturday, and Vaughan’s group faces a big test.

“Isaac Slater has led the team through the biggest portion of the season. Then, there’s Brady Layman, who is also a senior,” she said. “Heath Knight is our young runner. He’s a sophomore, and he’s traditionally our third, but he claimed the top spot for us at regionals. His brother, Creed, had never run at the varsity level before. He’s a senior, and he finally made it to varsity. We have another young guy in Tatem Elliott, who is our fourth runner. JD Henderson was our seventh runner, Dalton Hayes, our eighth runner was (originally) our sixth runner.

Vaughan also said the versatility of her roster sometimes makes it hard to narrow her group down to only a top seven, but it “makes them more competitive” as a group and individuals. Their looking to harness that energy into a top spot on Saturday at the state meet.

REST OF THE BEST

Local runners from three of the four regions made it to Ona, and these are the athletes who made it in aside from Williamstown, Ritchie and the Doddridge County boys.

The St. Marys boys finished second in Region I, as Blake Stanton finished first among his teammates at eighth. Tyler Consolidated’s Haygen Baker saw a runner-up finish in the region as the only TCHS representative. Gilmer County’s Jacob Chapman punched his ticket to Ona by finishing ninth in Region II, while Region IV saw Wirt County make it in with Williamstown. AJ Petrovsky finished second as the top representative for his team, as Wood County Christian’s Michael Cline came home in third. Ravenswood’s Cade Curfman finished seventh, while Wirt’s Wyatt Nulton also broke into the top ten in the final spot.

On the girls’ side, St. Marys had a slew of runners crack the top ten en route to a runner-up finish in Region I. Erica Davis finished seven seconds ahead of Tyler Consolidated’s Emily Ebert for first. Chesnee Williams and Andrea Davis of Ritchie County finished eighth and ninth, respectively. That helped the Rebel girls make it as a team.Tyler’s Kashia Brown took the final qualifying spot, while the SMHS trio of Madison Scott, Bralynn Davis and Josey Moore were 5-6-7. The DCHS girls took care of business in Region II, as Alexis Lamb finished first. Maria Bee was third, while Emily Gola (7th) and Hailey Keith (9th) finished inside the top ten, as well. In Region IV, Ravenswood made it alongside Williamstown as a team. RHS’s top finishers were Emily Wratchford (6th) and Hadleigh McGoskey (7th). Wood County Christian got a female representative to Ona with Lacey Dimit rounding out the top five.

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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