Off and running: Catholic girls, Buffalo boys capture relay titles
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It didn't take long for the Kanawha Valley to make its presence felt Friday at the state track meet.
Try the first event.
Charleston Catholic's girls and Buffalo's boys captured victories in the Class A 4x800-meter relay, the opening event of the 96th state meet at Laidley Field.
The Irish girls won despite posting the second-best time in the state coming into the state meet and just the 11th-fastest time in last week's regional meet. The quartet of Peyton Keener, Sarah Joseck, Quincy McKown and Payton Mullen completed the course in a season-best 10 minutes, 4.68 seconds.
"In the regionals, it's so much harder on athletes than the states,'' said Irish coach Scott Welch, "so we try to substitute runners into the 4x8 - normally sort of like our fifth and sixth runners instead of the top four -so that they can qualify in other events later in the meet.
"We figured it was between us and Williamstown, but knocking off all that time from our previous best [10:28] was a little more than I anticipated. I was figuring 10:12 or 10:14 to be able to cope with Williamstown, and then three of our four girls ran their personal bests.''
A short while later, Buffalo's boys successfully defended their Class A crown in the 4x800, winning in a season-best 8:13.66, shaving nearly 22 seconds off their previous low.
"We wanted to break our state record from last year [8:09.05],'' said junior Isaiah Robinson, the group's lead runner. "But I'm just glad for the guys. We've been working hard all year, every day putting the time in - and it all pays off right here.''
Robinson handed off the baton to Jonathan Torman, then he gave it to Conner Lamb and the anchor leg was run by Dylan Rich, a state champion last year in the open 800 and 1,600.
In fact, Buffalo coach Richie Wyant asked his lead runners to stay within a reasonable distance the first three legs so Rich didn't have to wear himself out completely trying to overcome a disadvantage, allowing him to save a little gas for the 3,200 later on Friday.
"We wanted to get out to a lead as big as we could,'' Robinson said, "because we knew Charleston Catholic, Doddridge and Williamstown would all be a threat from the regional meet. We knew that from where Dylan got the baton [10 yards back] that we had it won.''
A real showdown is brewing in the Class AAA girls 100-meter high hurdles finals at about 1:05 p.m. today.
All year long, defending champion Emily Godwin of Buckhannon-Upshur, a North Carolina recruit, has kept a small lead over St. Albans sophomore Anacia Hines and beat Hines by a good margin in an early season meet at Laidley.
But over the past few weeks, a wild card has been thrown into the mix with John Marshall freshman Tori Derrow, who has run times faster than anyone.
"I haven't been running hurdles that much,'' Derrow said after running in the trials on Friday. "I haven't run them since seventh grade. But I built my way back to the place I had to be and kept training hard.''
Coming into the state meet, Derrow's best time was 14.82 seconds, Godwin's 15.08 and Hines' 15.11. In last week's regionals, it was even closer - Godwin 15.08, Derrow 15.11 and Hines 15.21.
"I'm very excited and ready to run against her,'' Hines said of meeting Godwin again. "I've been waiting all year because my first race I ran against her, I didn't do too good. But I feel very confident this time.''
In Friday's qualifier for today's finals, Hines (15.12) beat Derrow (15.20) by a small margin in one heat, and Godwin ran a time of 14.94 in the other heat.
Derrow and Hines give up a couple of years of seasoning to Godwin, but both feel confident going against the nine-time state meet event winner and a 40-point scorer last year with four firsts.
"That's my goal,'' Derrow said, "to beat Emily, a three-time state champ, and I guess everybody's favorite pick. It'd be nice just to get off with a bang and show them what I can do.''
Hines thinks the race could be too close to call.
"If [Derrow] does her best,'' Hines said, "and I do my best and Emily does her best, I think it'll be real interesting in how it turns out.''
When you think of defending Class AAA champion Buckhannon-Upshur, you think of Godwin and, in a previous era, Chelsea Carrier.
But the Bucs have shown depth in their squad, especially in one of Godwin's specialties, the hurdles. They showed that for the fourth year in a row in the shuttle hurdle relays, the last three without Godwin.
On Friday, the Bucs won by about a second and broke their own state meet record, finishing in 1:03.86. The previous record was 1:04.13, set in 2010 with freshman Godwin in the quartet.
Godwin has gone on to win three individual events in 2010 and four last year, and is a favorite to do it again. She competes today in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, the long jump and high jump.
The shuttles team that won Friday consists of Hannah Stankus, Katy Riley, Courtney Reed and Lauren Cvechko. Cvechko has been as much a constant over the last four state meets, and ran the anchor leg this time around.
Cvechko said Godwin does indeed cast a broad, positive influence on the rest of the team's hurdlers.
"Training with her for the past four years has helped me a lot, actually," Cvechko said. "I watch her and try to do what she does. We're really, really close friends. I think we help each other a lot because we do the same events."
Levi Moreland is pretty sure he won the first boys individual state title in Hampshire High history, and father Micah also thinks that's the case.
Moreland won the discus by about 31/2 feet, hurling the disc 160 feet, 5 inches. As with most competitors, he thought he could have gone a few feet farther.
"It was my new [personal record], and I broke the school record four times this year," the senior said. "I came in predicted to win and I was confident, but I knew I had competition. I just relaxed."
While the Trojans aren't known as a track power, the Morelands have gone to some 21st-century lengths to reverse that. They have worked with Matt Ellis, a throwing coach based in Rhode Island.
But the Morelands need not journey to Providence for their tips. They begin their hookup with Ellis through the website primalatc.com
"We shoot a video and send it to him," Micah Moreland said. "He does analysis and teaches it back on YouTube. You can stop the video and everything."
As for the rest of the Trojans, Levi Moreland said the team qualified the most in his career - about 12 girls and eight boys (relay participants included). Two or three years ago, it was barely five.
Reclassification has probably hurt no athlete in any sport more than it has Scott's Will Shaffer.
Shaffer won the Class AA 3,200 the last two years at the state meet, but athletes from Fairmont Senior and Bridgeport have proved to be thorns in his side after both schools dropped from Class AAA.
That fact was illustrated again on Friday night when the Polar Bears' Nick Trefz edged Shaffer by a little over six seconds to claim the event.
"I won the 32 the last two years and got second just now, so that's obviously not what I wanted," Shaffer said. "But I can't complain. It's a blessing to be out here running and running fast."
Shaffer, who will run cross country at Marshall next year, said he was focused more on his personal time than who was running around him and he took his second-place finish in stride.
"The time is what matters," Shaffer said. "In basketball and football you measure how good you are by wins, but in track and field you can see by your times. There's no such thing as a moral victory in those sports but here, if I had run a 20-second [personal record] and come in last, I wouldn't have cared."
That's what happens when an athlete as decorated and accomplished as St. Marys' Maggie Drazba is turned loose one last time. The senior earned yet another win in the event, this time by a full lap plus around 11 seconds, arriving at the finish line in 10:31.83.
That effort bested her own Class A record by over 27 seconds and set a new all-class mark, besting a time of 10:49.14 set by Preston's Ari Kasprewicz in 2009.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com. Ryan Pritt and Doug Smock contributed.