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Gazette/FOC Relays notebook: Kanawha Valley schools have a strong Saturday

Lawrence Pierce
Poca's Christian Buckley won the Class AA boys discus and shot put.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays hasn't always been kind to Kanawha Valley schools in recent years.

In fact, Hurricane's Class AAA title in the 2009 girls meet still stands as the last Relays team championship captured by a school from Kanawha or Putnam county. That pattern seemed to continue during Friday's opening portion of the six-tiered meet, as Kanawha Valley teams won just seven events.

It all changed, however, on Saturday.

Kanawha Valley schools accounted for 19 event victories, giving Charleston-area schools four individual winners of multiple events in the weekend meet. In addition, two athletes earned high-point honors in their respective meets - Anacia Hines of St. Albans (girls AAA) and Dylan Rich of Buffalo (boys A).

One of those double winners was Poca sophomore weight thrower Christian Buckley, who swept the shot put and discus with respective efforts of 46 feet, 6 inches and 156-3.

Those marks fell short of his seasonal bests of 49-11 and 162-81/2, but Buckley was satisfied.

"I would have liked to have crossed 50 in the shot,'' he said, "but it didn't happen for me. Still, I'm happy with my performance.''

Buckley got a bit of a run in the shot, as he beat Westside's James Adkins by just 2 inches. That's unusual for Buckley, who leads all West Virginia AA athletes by more than 3 feet in the shot and more than 16 feet in the discus this season.

"It was nice to see some schools here we don't normally see around the area,'' Buckley said. "I think it's definitely going to help. I haven't had that much competition in the shot for a while, and it was great to see some good throwers.''

The other individual multiple winners for the Kanawha Valley were:

  • Rich, whose distance double Saturday in the 800 meters (1:58.96) and 1,600 (4:19.84) - each a meet record - went along with his victory in the 3,200 on Friday.
  • Hines in the 100 hurdles and 200 dash with times of 15.11 and 26.33, the latter a season best.
  • Matt Brafford of George Washington, who took the AAA boys 1,600 Saturday with a 4:23.12 clocking (his best this year), matching a win in the 3,200 on Friday. In each, he beat Air Force recruit Ryan Graf of Jefferson.
  • Another impressive effort was turned in by Capital freshman pole vaulter Tristan Slater, who matched his season-high by clearing 13-6 in the boys AAA meet.

    "I'm satisfied,'' Slater said, "I wanted 14 feet. I didn't get that today, but I know I can get it the next time.''

    Slater and Winfield's Chris Cochran have vaulted a foot higher than anyone else in the state in AAA this season, but Cochran didn't clear any height Saturday.

    With his efforts, Slater may become Capital's most-accomplished vaulter since former state champion Jennifer Hansen, who graduated in 2005. It's been even longer since a Cougars boy had that sort of impact in the event at the state meet.

    But Slater thinks it's already started a new tradition.

    "Yes, I think it might,'' he said. "There should be a girl vaulter coming up next year who's doing really well, too - Hailey [Snodgrass of Horace Mann]. She's an eighth grader right now and she's jumping 8 feet, 6 inches.''

    Other Kanawha Valley single winners Saturday:

  • AAA boys - Winfield (4x200 relay);
  • A boys - Charleston Catholic's Sam Revercomb (200), Phillip Mallory (300 hurdles) and the Irish 4x200 and 4x400 relays;
  •   AAA girls - Winfield's Barkley Castro (800), Allie Perry (pole vault) and Capital's Peyton Panger (1,600);
  • A girls - Catholic's Quincy McKown (800), Peyton Keener (1,600) and Gina Marks (shot put).
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  • So what was Jackie Zuliani, coach of No. 1-ranked Buckhannon-Upshur, doing at Laidley Field Saturday afternoon?

    Zuliani didn't have a team to direct. Her only two athletes in the meet - weight throwers Mackenzie Leigh and Megan Wilfong - competed Friday night in the girls AAA division.

    "I'm just enjoying the meet with no pressure,'' Zuliani said, "and enjoying the sport without having to worry about kids.''

    The Bucs didn't bring a full squad to the Gazette Relays, Zuliani said, because many were involved in academic pursuits, one in California and several at the State Capitol, including nine-time state champion Emily Godwin. The rumor going around Laidley Friday night was that the school was holding its prom, but that was untrue.

    "It's unfortunate,'' Zuliani said of missing the Relays. "It just didn't work out for us this year. We wish we could have been here to compete. It's like a pre-state meet and you get to see some teams we don't get to see that often, like Jefferson.''

    Zuliani wasn't sure if the absence will turn into a disadvantage for B-U. When the Bucs competed in the Gazette Relays in 2010 and '11, they turned around and won state titles three weeks later. They missed the Relays last year and finished second to Morgantown in the state meet.

    "We'll have to see,'' Zuliani said. "I hope it's not a disadvantage. The part I hated was that we could have used another meet to experiment with some things, to shift around. We have our conference meet this week, then the regionals. So maybe it might be [a disadvantage] in the long run. Hopefully, taking the weekend off won't hurt anybody.''

    Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

     


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