CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jefferson definitely doesn't want to mess with a good thing.
The Cougars shrugged off a slow start at the 78th Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays and wound up running away with their fifth straight boys Class AAA title at Laidley Field Saturday, becoming one of four repeat champions in the weekend meet.
Doddridge County again swept a pair of crowns in the Class A meets, and Gahanna Lincoln (Ohio) defended its title in girls AAA. Bridgeport provided the other team champs by claiming both the boys and girls AA divisions.
Ten more meet records were turned in Saturday under picture-perfect weather conditions to go along with three new marks set during Friday's opening events.
Jefferson, ranked far and away as the No. 1 boys AAA team in West Virginia by RunWV.com, dominated despite a few hiccups. The Cougars won seven events Saturday and nine in all - half of the 18 that were contested.
They trailed AAA newcomer Point Pleasant 33-30 after Friday's six final events, but stormed back to win by a convincing 134-55 margin. Winfield (54) placed third.
Senior sprinter Dante Price, a seven-time state champion, again led the charge for Jefferson, taking the 100- and 200-meter dashes with respective times of 10.92 and 21.85 seconds, the latter a season best. He also anchored a pair of the Cougars' three relay winners and took high-point honors for the meet with 25 points.
Price, who has signed to run at Virginia Tech, thinks it's no coincidence that the Cougars have won five consecutive Gazette/FOC Relays and, in three weeks, will take aim at their fourth state title in a row.
The Gazette Relays mirror the state meet in every respect, which gives contending teams sort of a dry run through the state meet schedule and the Laidley Field experience.
"It definitely helps us gauge where we are as compared to the rest of the state,'' Price said, "especially for our young guys in the field events. It helps them see the stage. We can have some mess-ups here and there, but that's why we come here, so they can soak in the atmosphere and see the competition and hopefully, they'll have it down by states and will be able to perform on this stage.''
During the May 17-18 state meet, Jefferson will attempt to match the four straight boys AAA titles won by Cabell Midland from 1996-99. The Cougars will definitely be heavy favorites, as they held the state's top marks this season in a whopping eight different events heading into the Gazette Relays, and were second-best in three other events.
Price doesn't expect the Cougars to come back to town overconfident, though.
"We know that Cabell Midland's not going to lay on their backs,'' he said. "They're not going to give it to us. So we have to do our best. We still have to execute. Predictions don't mean anything if they don't come true.