Wood County Christian anticipated big spring
WILLIAMSTOWN — While Williamstown High School’s athletic programs consistently find themselves in the spotlight for their hard work and success year in and year out, the Yellowjackets aren’t the only focused prep athletes in the small town.
Just a four minute drive and a right turn from the ‘Jackets campus, Wood County Christian School sits filled with student-athletes eagerly awaiting their time participating in the numerous sports offered by the Wildcat coaches.
While that was certainly the case again this season, there was a little something extra added to this spring season on the WCC campus. Not only was everyone suiting up for another run at a West Virginia Christian Association Tournament title, but this was the final year lacking opportunities to compete for West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission state championships.
And the Wildcats’ coaches had readied accordingly with schedules designed to prepare everyone for the newest athletic chapter in the school’s history.
For WCC tennis coach Justin Layfield, this year not only signaled that but it doubled as the inaugural year of the program.
“We were extremely excited with it being the first year of the program and looking to build something new. There was a buzz and a definite interest,” said Layfield.
None of these opportunities or goals came to fruition however. COVID-19 wiped out the chance for tennis, baseball and track and field’s chance to get at least a bigger taste of the athletes they likely would be facing off against next season in the uber competitive Class A Region IV.
Every Wildcat team practiced for just two weeks before the long climb to return to normal began with the shut down.
These precautionary measures denied Layfield his chance to work with lone senior Elijah Marshall, who had shown an extraordinary amount of preparedness and responsibility before he even got on the court. Marshall’s foresight to inform his job of his tennis duties as he scheduled for the time off flashed a level of maturity making his coach eager to work with him. “From everything I knew about him he seemed like a down-to-earth and smart kid whose teammates spoke very highly of him,” said Layfield. “We were just getting into it and I didn’t know a whole lot about everyone, but his forehand was definitely going to be a strength. And I know he was looking forward to growing and learning and developing his game.”
As painful as the abrupt end was for the net leader baseball head coach Adam Dunn and track and field coach Dave Weekley experienced quite more sorrow with the cancellation of the season. With a handful of their seniors participating multiple years in their programs, it was a bittersweet moment to send the group out without a senior campaign.
“We had been talking about this season since last year,” said Dunn. “We had a good group of two returning seniors with four more drafted in and some of those guys were athletes. Our potential was high and we had some better matchups heading into the season.”
Heading the top of this list were a pair of solid pitchers in Trey Davis and Jacob Thomas. “Both of them are smart and Jacob can just straight pitch and sling the ball,” said Dunn.
Davis’ primary duties extended beyond the mound. “I knew if I needed a steady arm at third base I could slide him over from shortstop,” said Dunn.
Four other uber athletes joining the team in Tucker Dougherty, Garrett Napier, Josh Stoia and Camden Huck provided more reasons for the optimism. “They were all big guys who were quick and agile. I don’t know what their limits would have been if we had got them to the plate and comfortable in the box. But they were going to give it 110% to find out.
“It is a shame we had the carpet pulled out from underneath of us. We were one of those teams that if you ever got up on us and gave us a second to breathe we were going to try and catch you by running the bases hard.”
For Weekley, whose fairly aggressive scheduling with several meets in Doddridge County and a trip to the Gazette Mail Relays were good tests for his athletes in the race for WVCAT titles, his four seniors were set to make some noise.
Alexis Shutts and Joyce McSherry’s interests in the shot put and discus had them poised to break a few program records on their way out the door. And as they had been with the program all four years, the strength and technique they had gained probably set them in a good position to make new marks.
“But they also had a willingness to try anything,” said Weekley. “From the 4×100 to the 4×800 they would pitch in and help the team score points here and there.”
Meanwhile, Dougherty and Stoia were set to pull double duty on the diamond and track and field. Both stood out in the sprint events and flashed the potential to help out on several Wildcat relays.
Stoia’s second year also had the makings of a memorable final campaign. “He just had a great attitude and had won several WVCAT titles last year at our big meet,” said Weekley. But just like their female counterparts they received praise for their willingness to do anything asked of them from their head coach.