The start of the West Virginia High School cross country season dawned bright and early on Saturday morning as 44 complete boys and girls high school teams and 23 middle school teams took part in the huge Autumn Classic meet near Belmont, WV. The meet, in its 25th year, is hosted by St. Marys High School annually and is generally the first taste of real competition many cross country athletes get to begin their seasons.
Locally, Tyler Consolidated and Paden City High and middle schools had athletes in each of the four competitions taking place on the day. While the Knights and Wildcats were not able to field full teams for each division, their athletes did compete individually and gained valuable experience which will provide a bench mark for the rest of their season.
Twenty-four complete teams competed in the boys high school division with the Ripley Viking team placing first scoring 76 points on the day, followed closely by Fairmont Senior with 79.
Individually, Silver Knight junior, Dylan Reynolds, was the first Consolidated finisher to cross the finish line in 19:23 in 18th position overall. Scott Sole, in his first meet ever, placed 62nd of the 244 runners with a time of 21:30.6; and junior Ryan Dalrymple finished the race in 23:04.6 in 124th place.
In his first outing as a cross country athlete, Scott Sole said the race was nothing like he expected it to be. "It was crazy," he said. "These guys were running for better times and my goal was just to keep running and not to walk!"
Paden City sophomore, Dean Frye, placed 106th overall in 22:39.7, and Austin Quinn, junior, also participated for the Wildcats.
George Washington High School's, Matthew Bradford took first place at the meet, finishing the 5K in 17:27.9.
In the high school girls division, 20 complete teams participated with Philip Barbour placing first overall with 86 team points. Bridgeport scored 101 to take second, followed by Williamstown with 139.
Competing in their first meet as a team in the history of the school, the Paden City girls' team placed 19th overall with 464 points.
Lady Wildcat sophomore, Kayla Hizer, was the first Paden City athlete to cross the finish line in this competition in 76th position with a time of 28:04.9. Mallory Estel finished 83rd in 28:37.5; Hannah Stanley, 145th, in 34:21.5; Ciera Yoho, 146th, 34:25.5; and Amber Neff, 155 of the 165 participants in the race with a time of 36:30.9.
"It was tough," Neff said. "I thought I was going to be sick once or twice, but I finished."
"This is all very exciting," said head coach of the Paden City teams, Kim Huffman. "I just want our kids to have fun and take in the whole experience."
Tyler Consolidated had three athletes competing at the event, with only three eligible for competition. Freshman Amber Watson led the way for the Silver and Black, finishing in 39th position with a time of 25:49.1; followed by sophomore Marisa Gogan in 59th with a time of 26:55.7; and junior Kelly Rice in 96th with a time of 29:25.8.
St. Marys senior sensation, Maggie Drazba, took the individual win in the girls division in 20:08.7.
"Our high school athletes did very good," said Knight head coach, Luke Reynolds. "All of them were in the top half of the race, even with a couple of them having trouble. This is a good indication that we are heading in the right direction with our training."
Eleven complete boys middle school teams participated at the 3K event with Ripley Middle School finishing first with 47 points.
Paden City's young cross country team performed very well at the meet with Cade Crislip earning an 8th place finish in 13:05.3, and Evan Shreve finishing 11th in 13:12.2. Cade Myers placed 42nd overall in 14:35.3.
Josh Frum was the first Knight to cross the finish line for Tyler Consolidated with a time of 15:52.1. He was followed by Eli Henthorn in 76th with a time of 17:06.2; P.J. Wright, 95th, 18:39.1; and Destry Nelson, 18:46.3.
Taylor County Middle School took the overall team win in the girls' 3K competition with 26 points. The young Lady Knights of Tyler Consolidated placed 5th overall with 122 points.
McKenzie Bradfield was the first Lady Knight to finish with a time of 15:19.9 in 13th position. Jahnvi Duncan finished 22nd in 15:52.6; Amanda Reynolds, 31st in 16:14; Katie Pratt, 40th, in 16:40.6; Alexis Chambers, 52nd, 17:05.7; Demery Nelson, 61st, in 17:31.4; Megan Sole, 82nd, 18:38.8; Kaylee Hulin, 86th, 18:47.4; Aleah Black, 88th, 18:52.6; and Kassidy Starkey, 121st, 22:51.6.
Hannah Loy was the only Paden City Jr. High athlete entered in the girls 3K, finishing in 92nd position of the 131 runners in 19:05.2.
"The middle school girls put in a fine showing, again we had a few with problems, and we had a few pleasant surprises, also," coach Reynolds said. "Our middle school boys had a bad start and were stuck in traffic for a while, so the results in that race weren't as good as we are capable of, but we definitely have some positives to take from this, especially being the first race of the year."
"All in all, this was a very good start to our season. Just like any sport, your first competitive event highlights the good parts of your fitness, and let's you know what you have to improve on. We are going to recover, regroup, and be ready to go again next week."
On Sept. 4 all four Tyler Consolidated and Paden City teams will compete at the "Stormin' the Castle" meet at Tyler Consolidated High School.