’Jackets, Devils top contenders for W.Va. state track title

JAY W. BENNETT The Marietta Times Williamstown freshman Lilly McMullen will look to contribute to the Yellowjackets’ quest for a W.Va. state title this weekend in Charleston, W.Va.

PARKERSBURG — Things could get pretty interesting before the dust settles on the Class A state track and field meet, which gets underway Friday at the University of Charleston Stadium.

Five teams are in contention for the single-A girls crown, while Little Kanawha Conference rivals Williamstown and St. Marys are expected to go head-to-head to determine the champion for the boys.

“It should be fun to watch,” said St. Marys head boys coach Richard Conaway, whose Blue Devils lost a tough 60-59 battle to WHS at last year’s state meet. “That was a tough one to lose. I keep stressing, you know, just go down there and perform.

“What happens is going to happen. You just hope everything goes great. You got to compete when you go to state and hopefully that is the mindset. Who wouldn’t be excited about going? We’ve got a real nice team this year.”

LKC high-point winner Zac Long is just one of the talented Blue Devils who will need a solid meet if the squad from Pleasants County, which also had all-LKC performers in Brady Gorrell, Cole Smith and Walker Hashman, is to bring back a state title.

“Last year we had (state high-point award winner) Anthony Johnson and he kind of carried everybody on his back,” added coach Conaway. “He was the horse you rode. This year we have very good balance in the field and in the running.

“We’ve kind of got that package where everybody can contribute. Williamstown proved it last year. You don’t have to win first place. When it’s your turn just place somewhere and they did. I’m looking for and hoping for great performances by everyone and just see what happens.”

First-year WHS head boys coach Jill Bryant, whose squad had all-LKC performers in Trevor Hoosier and Tim Wickham, has a senior laden program and what appears to be a healthy Dakota Hammer.

“At the LKC meet he came down wrong in the pole vault and sprained his ankle,” Bryant said. “We didn’t know until today (Wednesday) if he was even going to run at all. We knew he was going to pole vault at the regional. He did what he needed to do and we have no shot to win the state meet if he doesn’t score in the pole vault.

“We needed him to accomplish that. Now, we are going to get him in some relays and that’s good. The message to them is if we don’t all give our best effort we can’t succeed. That’s the reality of the situation. I’m not going to downplay the talent at St. Marys at all. I think we have the advantage as far as depth is concerned.”

Long in the open 400 and Doddridge County’s Hunter Riffle (1600) are the only two area thinclads trying to repeat as state champions in individual events. Riffle was an all-LKC performer as too were area LKC athletes Tyler Anderson of Tyler Consolidated, Bryce Jarrell of Ravenswood, Ritchie County’s Jarett Allender and Bulldog Hunter Hayes.

Magnolia’s girls won the state title last year with the help of 24 points from then junior Jordan Delaney. The Blue Eagles, Wheeling Central, Doddridge County, Williamstown and Ritchie County are all expected to be in the mix to bring home team hardware come Saturday evening.

“They are excited,” said DCHS head girls coach Craig Kellar, who watched Bulldogs Jonna Ferrell, McKenzie Newton, Abigail Charles, Jasmine Ball, Rosa Plaugher and Kiley Ross land all-LKC accolades. “We’ve been kind of fine tuning this week and covering all the bases, but we are ready to go.

“It’s going to be interesting. Five teams have a realistic chance to win and that doesn’t happen very often. Coach (Cline) Stansberry would call this is going to be a donnybrook and I don’t know if they have any modern words to be able to express it. I think whoever wins it is the one who has the best meet. I don’t think there is any wiggle room.”

Delaney is the defending state champion in both the mile and 2-mile for the Blue Eagles. Williamstown boasts two-time defending state pole vault champ Ellie Gardner as well as shot put champ Bethany Arnold, who won the event in 2016 as a freshman.

“It’s just going to be really interesting to see how it shakes out,” Kellar added. “In one sense, Williamstown and Doddridge County may have more people there, but the other three schools have some real powerful concentrated areas and if they max out they will be right there.”

Ritchie County’s Samantha Kirk was the LKC runner-up high-point award winner and was joined on the all-LKC squad by twin sister Stephanie Kirk as well as fellow Rebels Gwyn Napier and Abi Haught.

The Yellowjacket girls of head coach Zach Hall will be expecting big things from all-LKC honorees Kasey McNamara and Carsen Hesson along with Gardner, who didn’t compete as the WHS girls lost the conference title by two points to the Bulldogs.

Gilmer County’s Sada Wright, who also made the all-LKC team, is expected to be a double-winner this weekend in the shot put and discus. The Titan is coming off a Class A state record heave of 135 feet, 1 inch in the discus at last week’s Region II meet at Glenville State College. St. Marys’ Whitney Jemison, another all-LKC honoree, is expected to place for the Blue Devils in the shot put.