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ALBRIGHT: Parkersburg High’s throwing trio took pressure off the rest of their teammates

From left to right, Charlie Bauman, Justin Waybright, and Casey Mahoney celebrate their 1-2-3 finish in finals of the shot put Saturday during the Class AAA state tournament at Laidley Field in Charleston. (Photo Provided)

When did it become clear Parkersburg High School would be among the favorites to win the Class AAA boys’ track and field state championship?

When the Big Reds qualified three different athletes in the shot put and discus.

Seriously.

That blessing gave PHS head coach Rod O’Donnell and company an opportunity to get big time points in two events, lessening or lightening the workload on the other 11 Big Reds.

Justin Waybright, Charlie Bauman and Casey Mahoney all possessed the ability to make the big throws. It was just a matter of if they would.

Heck, Waybright and Bauman entered the competition highly ranked in both throws. Plus, Mahoney coming on at the right time only strengthened the situation. Ten-fold.

“We trust Justin and Charlie a lot. We knew they were going to do their thing,” PHS distance runner Franklin Angelos said.

Should the throwers go 1-2-3 in both events, that added a combined 48 points to the overall team score. How big was that? No one else in the entire state had that kind of event advantage, not even Wheeling Park.

If the Big Reds could find a way to even approach those numbers, it was going to be very hard keeping the trophy away from the School of Champions.

“You just get the sense that when things go right early in a meet, I always tell them you can’t have high peaks without low valleys, but when you compete like that and things go well it sets a tone for success,” O’Donnell said.

So, what happened?

Well, the throwers lived up to every expectation. All of them, no exceptions. Starting with the discus, the trio tallied an incredible 43 of those crucial 48 points. Talk about Christmas morning coming early.

“It was one of the best throwing performances by a team in the history of West Virginia no doubt,” O’Donnell said. “The quality and depth of that field was impressive.”

Nowhere did those feelings of accomplishment become more evident than when O’Donnell came back into the PHS tent after the two efforts and delivered the good news. The Big Reds cheered like they just won the meet, which only read as half true.

The combined effort actully sent the Big Reds into the lead. “I think it inspired the whole team,” O’Donnell said.

Bryson Singer agrees.

“Knowing they did that and that it pushed us over the top of Wheeling Park, that was pretty amazing,” he said. “Everyone was excited to get out there and run.”

And they did.

Aaron Kupfner dominated the 300 hurdles to send the Big Reds further into the lead.

But it still wasn’t enough to seal the championship out right.

For that, it would take Keegan Barnette’s and Franklin Angelos’ best performances of the campaign. Finish 1-2 in the 800 and it wouldn’t matter what Park did in four of their most promising point-scoring events: the relays.

“We knew it was a big event, but we didn’t really know how big, the coaches were tallying points and we needed 11 to clinch, but we didn’t know that at the time” Angelos said. “At that point, it was all for the team. Our motivation was not to let our teammates down or waste the brilliant effort from our throwers.”

They didn’t. At all.

After waiting all day in the heat, the two top cross-country runners for the Big Reds finished 1-2 in the 800. Thus, sending the rest of the team into a frenzy.

You would have thought a bomb went off. Teammates exploded out from under the tent. Tears poured down O’Donnell’s face. The Big Reds all together excepted the state championship trophy just as they had planned when they got together for a practice back in March 2020, days after W.Va. Governor Jim Justice officially cancelled the spring sports season because of COVID.

“I knew we had a team that could win the state title when they went on and trained on their own that day,” O’Donnell said.

To think though, it wouldn’t have happened without a career day from a trio of kids in just two events.

“We aren’t champions that is for sure. That absolutely is true,” O’Donnell said.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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