RIPLEY — The Mountain State Athletic Conference cross country meet provided teams with one more chance to size up competition before regionals next week.
A fairly clear picture of what to expect was painted on Wednesday and, for the most part, it was painted in bright red.
The Cabell Midland boys and Hurricane girls each cruised to team titles at Cedar Lakes, with Midland’s Will Sheils and Parkersburg freshman Olivia Collett winning the individual races.
Hurricane runners placed second, third, seventh, eighth and 12th in accumulating just 32 points, 25 better than second-place Cabell Midland and 60 points better than third-place Winfield.“The girls ran well,” first-year Hurricane coach Eric Cooper said. “We had a couple of off days but it was encouraging that they were able to hang in there, battle and still manage to have a good run. It was encouraging and definitely something to build off of heading into states.”
Hurricane entered Wednesday ranked No. 1 in the runwv.com team power rankings. Led by second- and third-place finishes by Anna Gordon and Abbie Short, the Redskins were far too strong for the competition.
But Cooper insists that could change next week if his team isn’t in top form.
“We’re in a tough region to where you can’t really slack off,” Cooper said. “You’ve got to be on your ‘A’ game.
“It helps seeing them [today]. I do know we won, but those teams weren’t far off. On an off day, they’re going to be right there with us.”
No one was with Collett, who crossed the line over 37 seconds ahead of Gordon with a time of 19:25.63.
Even as a ninth grader, Collett was ranked No. 2 in Class AAA according to runwv.com and pulled away from the field early in a dominant performance.
“It mean’s a little bit extra because it’s MSACs,” Collett said. “[The course] is a little hillier than the other courses we run.”
As nice of a performance as the Redskins put on, even they couldn’t match what Midland’s boys did on Wednesday.
The Knights took the top four spots and six of the top seven, finishing with only 16 points and besting second-place Winfield by 79 points.
It has been a couple of years since Midland racked up three state championships in four years (2009, 2011, 2012), led by Jacob Burcham.
Midland is ranked as the No. 1 boys team in the state on runwv.com, but two-time defending state champion University is lurking just behind.
That battle will likely be fought soon enough, but on Wednesday the Knights showed it will take quite an effort to knock them off.
“The goal is we’re one step closer to the state meet,” Midland coach Chris Parsons said. “We’ve got three seniors in that top seven, four in the top eight and one of their goals clear back to last year after finishing runner-up with having so many of our guys back, the ultimate goal is to win a state championship. It’s all in the steps getting there, and so far they’ve done everything we’ve asked of them.”
Sheils bested his teammate Jonnathan Hathaway by a little over six seconds, with several more red-and-gray-clad Knights in hot pursuit.
Sheils is ranked fourth on runwv.com, but spent parts of the year last season on Midland’s junior varsity squad, which speaks to the depth of the program.
However Sheils is clearly seizing his opportunity in his senior season.
“I was eighth or ninth [on the team] last year,” Sheils said. “We were so interchangeable last year, we had eight or nine that could go together. Up until this race [last year] I was out of the mix.
“[An individual conference championship] was never the expectation coming in. I just wanted to get better. I didn’t want to waste any days in the offseason, in June and July, and it’s just a reflection of that mentality not to waste any time.”
Source: Charleston Gazette-Mail
Image by: Chris Dorst