CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The 78th installment of the Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays will be held this weekend at Laidley Field featuring many of the same teams and following the same format that it has for decades.
And maybe that reliability is what keeps those teams coming back.
The meet will begin at 4 p.m. Friday and will run through early Saturday evening, following the guidelines of the state meet, which will be held on May 3 at Laidley.
Gazette/FOC Relays meet director Jim Crawford Jr. said he has seen many of the same faces taking advantage of the opportunity to compete against a large field and to prepare for the state's premier track event.
"A lot of coaches have been coming here for eons," Crawford Jr. said. "A lot of them I can remember from a long time ago and some of them I can remember from when I was in high school. A lot of guys that competed then now are coming back as coaches."
Last year, around 50 boys and girls teams showed up and approximately 1,100 athletes competed and Crawford Jr. said he expects the totals this year to be roughly the same.
As far as favorites go, they should be easy to identify and one needs look no further than the Jefferson boys.
The Cougars have won four consecutive Class AAA championships at the event, but they are not alone in terms of repeating as Point Pleasant (boys Class AA), and Doddridge County (boys and girls Class A) each won their second titles in a row at last year's Gazette Relays.
Point cannot defend its AA title, however, since it has moved up to Class AAA status this school year.
Only Gahanna Lincoln, Ohio (girls Class AAA) and Berkeley Springs (girls Class AA) were new winners a year ago.