Yellowjacket girls win cross country state title

The Williams-town girls cross country team won the W.Va. Class A state title Saturday at Cabell Midland. It was the program’s first cross country state title since winning the Class AA/A crown in 1997. Courtesy photo

ONA, W.Va. — Ripley’s Tori Starcher put on a dominating performance to cap her sophomore campaign while the Williamstown girls and the Doddridge County boys topped the field here Saturday at Cabell Midland High School during the state cross country championships.

Parkersburg High School had a trio of all-staters (top 10 finishers). Head coach Larry Games’ Big Reds received a sixth-place finish from Ian Domenick (16:19). Olivia Collett placed fifth with a time of 18 minutes and 46 seconds. Teammate Madison Trippett was just four seconds off Collett’s pace and garnered seventh.

Starcher missed last year’s meet as she continued to recover from a shattered growth plate in her left foot. The 10th-grader, who finished in 17 minutes and 34 seconds for a 20-second win, made the most of her first crack at the course, pulling away from University’s TaShala Turner for the championship.

Parkersburg’s girls finished third (101) as a team, behind champion University (42) and runner-up Morgantown (57). Morgantown’s boys rolled to the title by easily besting Hurricane, 49-93.

The Big Red boys, who got top 30 finishes from Benjamin Lake (23rd, 17:12) and Will Lemaster (26th, 17:17), placed fourth as a team.

Williamstown’s Ella Hesson made a late push to clock in at 19 minutes and 8 seconds to finish as the Class AA/A runner-up. She just nipped Erykah Christopher of East Fairmont by a single second as Philip Barbour’s Jessica Melvin (18:57) won the title.

The Yellowjacket girls, who won the Little Kanawha Conference championship and finished runner-up at the regional behind Class AA state champion Winfield (beat Philip Barbour, 90-92), also received all-state honors from senior Kasey McNamara (9th, 19:48).

“Coach (Cliff) Taylor was out on the course motivating them and coach (Michelle) Hesson and I had them when they hit the track,” WHS head girls coach Larry Cassady said. “We talked to Kasey before the meet. She was like maybe 13th or 14th at the 2-mile and she just kept working her way up. Ella was probably fourth or fifth at the 2-mile and she ran her (Christopher) down on the track right at the line.

“The girls are a little excited. The course was chewed up a little bit and it was awful wet, but we had four girls who ran PRs. It’s been a real good season.”

Not only did Hesson and McNamara set personal records, but Emilee Ellison (35th, 21:21) and Carson Hesson (58th, 22:18) did so as well. It was the first state cross country title for the Yellowjackets since winning the Class AA crown in 1997.

Last year’s first-ever Class A state champion St. Marys didn’t qualify as a team out of a tough regional, but head coach Steven Nutter had a pair of all-staters. Senior Blue Devils Brady Gorrell (5th, 16:45) and Walker Hashman (6th, 16:50) both ended their careers in style.

¯ In Ohio, Belpre’s Eli Fullerton, Caldwell’s Levi Pemberton and Warren’s Trent Sayre all advanced our of regional competition and on to the state meet.

In the Division III meet and Pickerington, Fullerton finished 18th with a time of 16 minutes, 52 seconds. Belpre placed 12th as a team.

Also in D3, Pemberton was two places behind Fullerton with a time 16:52.92. Caldwell also competed as a team, but Pemberton was the only state qualifier.

In Division II, Warren’s Sayre came in with a ninth place finish. Sayre timed in at 16:43.06 to qualify for next weekend’s state meet.