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PHS boys in the hunt for Class AAA title

Big Reds enter meet second behind Wheeling Park

PARKERSBURG — Parkersburg High’s boys track and field team stayed healthy just as head coach Rod O’Donnell predicted they had to do at the beginning of the season, guiding the program to a fifth Class AAA regional title in the last seven years.

And in the eyes of runwv.com and the legendary head man, that’s enough to put the Big Reds among the contenders for Saturday’s state championship.

Parkersburg was revealed as the projected second best team in the state by the track website, coming in behind Wheeling Park. The Patriots are slated to score 24 more points than the Big Reds.

And for good reason.

Leading the northern panhandle school into the fight is one of the most decorated sprint teams in the state. Torrence Williams and Jerrae Hawkins anchor a group owners of the best performances in every sprint event, but one. More specifically, Williams ran the top times in the 100, 200 and 400 by a decent amount.

“They are just outstanding,” O’Donnell said. “They are using Williams in the 1, 2, and 4 and on just one relay team but they still lead the state in relays and are second in the 4×4. That is just an example of how deep they are.”

Still, the Big Reds counter with a talented group of their own, one capable of scoring plenty of points. Twelve different athletes over ten different events give PHS the ability to rack up big points and get an edge if the meet turns into a high scoring occasion.

Strongest among them –in terms of ability to score massive points for the team — comes in the shotput and discus events. Justin Waybright and Charlie Bauman’s consistency over the season puts them among the top throwers in the state. Waybright leads the way in the shotput with Bauman right behind him.

Until last week, Waybright also owned the best attempt in the discus. Casey Mahoney rounds out the attacking unit.

Next up, Franklin Angelos and Keegan Barnette have the ability to grab triple points in the 800, 1600, and 3200. Winning the titles aren’t out of the question, but both would need strong efforts to overcome University’s Josh Edwards, the favorite in all three events by a wide margin.

Ethan Rutherford and Gabe Ray have their work cut out for them in the sprints, but O’Donnell likes how his sprinters look right now.

There’s a good chance the 110 and 300 hurdle titles end up going to a Big Red. Well, more than just a good chance. Aaron Kupfner’s blown away the field all year and is among the top three in the state along with Huntington’s Noah Waynick and Riverside’s Carson Casto.

Kupfner recorded the best time of the season for anyone around the state in the 110s. He also owns the second best time in the 300s, being just five hundreths of a second behind Waynick.

The 4×200 team of Bryson Singer, Quayvon Cyrus, Kyle Hall and Daniel Jones may not look exactly the same as in the regionals. O’Donnell hinted at a possible mix up to speed things up.

There likely won’t be the same jostling in the 4×400 group of Angelos, Barnette, Ray and Rutherford.

O’Donnell just wants to make sure everyone gives 100 percent while not worrying about any of the other teams. “Because if you give 100 percent all season and in this meet then things take care of themselves,” he said.

Things could really fall the Big Reds way especially if teams balance each other out. Park could get Jefferson and Jefferson could get Morgantown and then it becomes a toss up.

The 400 preliminary, finals, and the 3200 will be run Friday evening at the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field.

Parkersburg High’s chasing the school’s sixth title and first since 2014.

O’Donnell’s looking for his second gold since taking over the program during the same year.

“I am totally confident. There is no doubt in my mind we are in the mix. It would be disrespectful to say we are the favorites because I have tremendous respect for those other teams and they are also healthy. Plus, just because someone is the favorite doesn’t mean they are going to win,” he said.

PATRIOT BOYS NOT LISTENING TO PROJECTIONS

Parkersburg South’s projected to score just ten points after everything is tallied up Saturday. Patriot head coach Jason Jones isn’t putting a lot of stock into that prediction.

Almost none at all, actually.

Instead, he prefers to let the chips fall where they may and if upsets happen then upsets happen. “Our kids have been really consistent all year and are getting faster and better pretty much every week,” he said when asked to explain.

That sums it up pretty nicely.

Competing in Region IV and the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference isn’t the easiest thing to do, after all. When someone looks at the the best efforts from around the state in 2021, many of them belong to performers in both groups. “Our kids won’t have to adjust and we can use that to our advantage I am excited for them,” he said.

The Patriots bring four-event qualifier Levi Rice (100, 200, 400, High Jump), a strong 4×100 relay team, a young 4×400 relay team, a shuttles team owning the fourth best effort in 2021, a deeply seasoned hurdler in Jackson Dearth, and Chase Anderson and Zach Parsons handle the 200 and 100 outside of their relay responsibilities respectively.

Girls representing the Patriots are Marimo Akita in the 100, 200, and 400 then Hannah Kinzer in the discus.

THREE PHS GIRLS TEAMS/PERFORMERS HAVE GOOD CHANCE FOR THE GOLD

Parkersburg High head coach Lia Fleek and the Big Reds head to the state tournament as a very young bunch — just three girls have experience in Charleston.

Outsiders would think this meet is more about just gaining that knowledge of being on the biggest stage for those 10 kids. But, they would be wrong.

The Big Reds still have the chance to bring home some state championship hardware. The shuttle hurdle team, 300 low hurdles and discus are events featuring a more than competitive team member or members.

Lily Wharton, Claire Tatterson, Kendal Domenick and Addison Gherke’s group have been among the top performers all season long. “They have consisently been among the top two all season and are only .04 seconds from top-ranked Wheeling Park’s time,” said Fleek.

Perhaps the best part for the quartet?

They are seeded first at the state meet based on regional times and Fleek thinks that gives her girls another level of confidence.

Gherke also has a shot in the 300 hurdles, however Wheeling Park pops up a top challenger yet again. The Patriots Marlee Porter and Hurricane’s Lilly Haught have the inside track. Yet, with the Big Red running a competitive and clean race, she has a shot at winning.

Lastly, Jaden Garner’s confidence is soaring after she threw a personal best at the regionals, 111-03. It was a huge boost of confidence as she is a few feet out of the discus lead.

Other girls representing the Big Reds include: Jackie Leaman (shotput), every relay team, Garner in the shotput, Domenick in the 100HH, Wharton in the 100, 200, and 300LH, and Destyni Hastings in the 200.

“I would love to see every girl come home with a medal so they can appreciate the payoff of their hard work and dedication,” Fleek said. “I am excited for them to have this experience so in the future they will know what they are truly working for in the coming years.”

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