ONA - The wait is over for the boys cross country team at Morgantown High School.
The Mohigans put together their best team effort of the season on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, won the West Virginia Class AAA championship at Cabell Midland High School course and denied the Knights a repeat win on their home course.
Morgantown, ranked No. 2 behind Cabell Midland in the runwv.comteam rankings prior to Saturday, had five runners in the top 14 and finished with 45 points to 100 for Cabell Midland. Morgantown last won the championship in 1989. Parkersburg was third (121) and University fourth (126).
In Class AAA girls, University won with 44 points. Morgantown was second with 62 and Cabell Midland third with 117. Hampshire's Hannah Lipps topped the individuals, winning with a time of 19:07.
Huntington St. Joe runner McKenzie Moran passed Philip Barbour's Jessica Melvin to win the Class AA-A girls race with a time of 19:07. Moran is the first cross country state champion in St. Joe history. Philip Barbour won the team title with 83 points and Fairmont Senior was second with 99.
Moran, who recently completed her St. Joe soccer season, tracked Melvin down on the home stretch.
"I knew if we could stay close, you saw that kick," St. Joe coach Dave Jenkins said.
In Class AA-A boys, Bridgeport came in favored and won with 69 points. The Indians had three runners in the top 13. Jackson Reed of Nicholas County, one of the favorites, held the lead when runners came onto the Chris Parsons Track and he prevailed in 16:06.
As the day wore on, it became warmer and several afternoon runners spent time in the medical tent afterward.
"It was a strange meet for everybody," Cabell Midland coach Chris Parsons said. "We got used to running in a cooler environment. This is a summer environment. What it ended up coming down to is Morgantown handled it better than anybody else. The way we ran, I'm happy we got second. I'm surprised we hung on."
Parsons received a National Federal of State High School Association's coach of the year award for cross country.
University had the Class AAA boys individual champion in Philip White. He won in 16:14. George Washington's Jacob Birurakis was second.
John Gullion led the Mohigans, placing fourth. Cabell Midland's top finisher was Austin Jordan in third. After that the Knights had a big dropoff.
"We knew University was solid. It was more Morgantown," Parsons said. "They came here to run a tough race. They had a better day than we did. We didn't put together our best race together. You're still second in the state, so I'm happy for the boys."
Morgantown coach Mike Ryan said the performance had been coming. The Mohigans finished third a year ago.
"This group's been working on this for three years," Ryan said. "The guys coming back worked hard over the summer. They were hungry. They (Cabell Midland) were in front of us last year. We knew we had to come up against the defending state champs in their back yard and it would be an uphill battle all the way, The guys accepted the challenge. I told them this morning go out and run and whatever happens happens."
Kevin Donnelly placed 14th for the Mohigans. He was all smiles at the awards ceremony held in the school gym.
"This is the greatest feeling ever," he said. "We've worked so long and hard for this. Our main strategy was believe in ourselves. We were confident in our training and we're tight as a team. This is such a great accomplishment. It means so much to us. We all stepped up. Definitely our best race."
White was happy for a Monongalia County "sweep" so to speak.
"We represented the Morgantown area well. That's all that matters," he said.
In Class AA-A, Bridgeport's boys lived up to the favorite's tag this time. Jimmy Lacaria was fifth and Mark Duez sixth to lead the Indians.
Reed ran his best race for Nicholas County at the right time. When it was over, he spent time hugging family members and friends who were behind the barricade at the finish line.
"When it's over and you get the hugs from family and friends, it's the best feeling ever," Reed said. "It was crazy. Aaron (runner-up Aaron Withrow from Winfield) and I were neck and neck a lot. Right near the 2-mile mark, he was in front of me and I said, "I can't let this happen. I've got to win this.' "
Reed is used to hearing cheers at the finish line. He won the 800 and 3200 and took second in the 1600 in the state meet last spring in Charleston.
"When I came on the track, heard the fans cheering, it gets you going even more," he said. "My best sport is track. I had some Skittles last night trying to get the sugar right. I was afraid I'd mess up. I came out feeling great. Ran my best race at the right time."
State officials crowned champions in Class A although runners competed with Class AA all season. St. Marys won the girls and Doddridge County won the boys.