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Mike Taylor back to coach Williamstown girls’ cross country

WILLIAMSTOWN — The man who guided the Williamstown Yellowjackets’ girls cross country team to its second state championship in 1997 is back to hopefully help the group to a fifth consecutive title in 2021.

Returning for his second go-around is Mike Taylor, who assisted head coach Larry Cassady one year ago. The leader assumes command of the most dominant Class A girls program of the last 10 years. Cassady recommended him for the position after the effect he had on the girls in their quest for a fourth straight championship this past season.

“The guy’s been around running all his life and he has the experience,” he said. “The kids love him and he came to help us out last summer and the girls listened to him and took him to heart on his promises and I just thought he would be the only guy to take over.”

“I had a really good time,” Taylor said. “I got my coaching appetite whetted again and decided to go ahead and continue to help them. The atmosphere is great and the kids are tremendous workers.”

He inherits a beautiful situation. Even with the graduations of Emilee Ellison and Ella Hesson, the Yellowjackets are far from lacking in talent. Three of the their four 2020 all-state runners from last season return in Brianna Winsett, Chloe Lightfritz, Natalie Sawin. Other big performers back include Reagan Ortiz, Brookelyn Reynolds and Torie Combs.

Adding to the treasure chest are freshmen Ava Lightfritz, Alexis Wynn, and nationally-decorated runner Alyssa Sauro.

“That nucleus is working hard and they are texting me knowing what I want them to do. We just have to make sure to continue to work hard and make sure to do our best.”

Indeed.

Doddridge County and St. Marys both return groups capable of pushing the Yellowjackets, so it critcial the drive stays where it is. Without it, the group may watch its chances at some history slip away.

Cassady, though, doesn’t feel like that is going to be a problem.

“He’s (Mike) going to take this program to an even higher level,” Cassady said. “There is something beyond winning and that is called dominance. And he’ll take it to that level.”

As it happens, that is what Taylor plans to do.

“We definitely want to keep things going in the direction it has been. We would like to make it five state championships in a row. Grafton is the only other high school in the state that has done that … so that is something to shoot for. Hopefully, we can accomplish that.”

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