Jefferson makes it five in a row at Gazette/FOC Relays
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.
"Everyone has to come out and perform and do their best to realize those predictions, to make those predictions come true. So it's all about execution. We've definitely struggled with that a little bit with some new guys, but we want to get them acclimated and get better every week.''
Some of the obstacles Jefferson faced this weekend were a false start in the shuttle hurdles, a disqualification in the 4x200 and an unexpected loss by high hurdler Warren Gray to Huntington's Ryan Gatrell on Saturday after Gray came into the meet running a half-second faster than any other competitor.
In the other boys meets, Bridgeport and Doddridge relied on sheer depth.
Bridgeport won just once Saturday - Abe Merinar's victory in the 1,600 - to go along with two wins Friday and edged Webster County 102-92 for the AA crown. Will Shaffer of Scott, a two-time defending AA state champ in the distance runs, got a bit of revenge in the 800 Saturday after losing to Merinar in the 1,600 and Fairmont Senior's Nick Trefz in the 3,200.
Doddridge, meanwhile, also won only three events, two on Saturday, but easily outdistanced Buffalo (141-84) for the team title.
In the girls AAA meet, Gahanna Lincoln won eight events, half of them relays (4x100, 4x200, 4x800, shuttles). The clockings in the 4x1 and 4x2 were meet marks. Daniella Johnson took the long jump and the 100 over St. Albans' Anacia Hines (who had the best trials time).
Bridgeport, which dropped down from AAA last year, flexed its muscle in the girls AA meet, winning 11 events, including four of five relays. Kayla Haywood (100, long jump) and Morganne Phillips (1,600, 3,200) earned two victories apiece.
Doddridge got a run for its money in girls A, holding off Clay-Battelle (121-101). D'Andra Swiger, capable of scoring 40 points at the state meet, led four events (200, 300 hurdles, long jump, high jump). Her time of 44.97 seconds in the 300s was a record. The Cee-Bees set meet marks in the 4x100 and 4x200.
Of the 10 new standards set Saturday, eight came in Class A, which has been run as a separate meet only since 2003. The other records went to:
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.