A new twist brings excitement to one of the state’s premier regular-season cross country meets.
Cabell Midland will host its annual St. Mary’s Medical Center XC Festival today, as more than 150 teams and 1,700 runners from across the Mountain State once again descend upon the state championship course. This year marks a change in schedule, with the first of eight races to begin in the evening at 6:30 p.m., rather than morning, and the final to start at 10:30 p.m.
“We’re excited, we’ll see what happens,” Midland coach Chris Parsons said. “It’s something we’ve thought about the past three years.”
Following consecutive years of intense race day heat and concerns for athlete safety, the Knights program opted to make the switch from a morning meet to evening, Parsons said.
Coaches who annually attend the race, like Doddridge County’s Craig Kellar, welcomed the change.
“After some of the heat we’ve been exposed to the last several years, we’ll try anything,” Kellar said. “I think it’s kind of exciting.”
To illuminate the course as the daylight fades, 13 diesel-powered light stands will be utilized, Parsons said.
The opportunity to race on the state meet course provides great incentive for teams from across the state to attend in order to learn the nuances of the course. That nighttime perspective will give runners a different look than championship day, though.
“We’ll still get a good look at the course and it’s going to be the same for everybody,” Bridgeport coach Jon Griffith said. “We’re not worried about it. We’re just going to go down there and do our best and hope things work out.”
Thus far this season, things have worked well for the Indians. The Bridgeport boys team enters as the top-ranked Class AA-A squad, with the girls ranked eighth, according to www.runwv.com
Last Saturday, Bridgeport’s boys, two-time defending state champs, finished a single point behind second-ranked Class AAA University at the Charles Pointe-Indian Run Invitational.
“They ran exceptionally well,” Griffith said. “I know University was missing one of their kids, but to get that close to them definitely is a good sign for us.”
While some teams like Bridgeport and Doddridge have run two meets this season, today’s event marks the season opener for others like Midland and Hurricane.
The meet’s tough competition will provide great opportunity for self-evaluation, particularly for the young Hurricane boys squad, Redskins coach Eric Cooper said.
“The boys will see a lot of the top teams from the state,” he said. “Of course, you have Cabell Midland. Winfield will be there, Parkersburg. I think you’re only missing University and Morgantown from the top five, but other than that just about all the teams are there.”
With Hurricane listed at sixth, four of the state’s top six AAA boys teams will attend today’s meet. In girls AAA, No. 2 Hurricane ranks highest, with Winfield (fifth), Parkersburg South (sixth) and Parkersburg (eighth) also attending.
Eight top-10 Class AA-A boys teams will attend, including top-ranked Bridgeport and No. 8 Buffalo, which boasts the state’s top individual runner in senior Hayden Harrison. Second-ranked Doddridge leads a class of five ranked AA-A girls teams at the meet in East Fairmont (fifth), Bridgeport (eighth), Wheeling Central (ninth) and North Marion (10th).
“You have a lot of talented teams coming to run,” Cooper said. “It’s sort of a state meet preview.”
The quality field and change in format ensure plenty of excitement, Griffith said.
“We’re looking forward to getting down to Midland and running the course,” he said. “We always enjoy running down there. It’s a beautiful course and Coach Parsons and his staff do a tremendous job.
“The kids are very excited for it. They’re looking very forward to it.”
Source: Charleston Gazette-Mail