If isn't often that settling for second place wins a meet, but Doddridge County made it so Saturday afternoon.
When the Bulldogs' Zack Cottrill edged Dominic Rich of Buffalo in a spirited battle of anchor legs running for second in the meet-ending 4x400-meter relay, it locked up the boys Class A championship for Doddridge at the 76th Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays at Laidley Field.
The stirring finish capped a Class A sweep for Doddridge, as the Bulldogs also outlegged Charleston Catholic to win the girls division. Three other teams repeated their Gazette/FOC Relays titles from a year ago -- Buckhannon-Upshur (girls AAA), Jefferson (boys AAA) and Point Pleasant (boys AA). The other crown Saturday went to Tyler Consolidated (girls AA) as the two-day meet concluded in perfect weather.
Five meet records were set Saturday to go along with the three established Friday, and two girls turned in perfect scores of 40 by winning all four of their individual events -- Emily Godwin of B-U and Gretchen Lantz of Class A South Harrison.
For a second straight year, no Kanawha Valley school captured a championship, after an area team had produced at least one crown every year since 1995. However, South Charleston finished a surprising second in boys AAA, and Charleston Catholic ran a strong second in girls A and also tied with Buffalo for the runner-up spot in the exciting boys A meet.
Coming into the final event of the boys A division, Doddridge was tied with Buffalo for second at 109 points, two behind Catholic. A victory in the 4x400 would have ensured at least a tie for the title for any of the three. Pocahontas County never let that happen, jumping into a comfortable lead, but the drama was just building.
When Cottrill hit the finish line, Doddridge was clocked at 3:42.67, just eight-hundredths of a second ahead of Rich and Buffalo (3:42.75).
Doddridge coach Chris Cress said his relay unit realized what was at stake.
"They knew it was a race between Buffalo and Charleston Catholic and us,'' he said. "We wanted to win, but they knew we needed to be in front of those guys. So they knew the situation, and we applied a little bit of pressure to make sure they knew what needed to get done.
"There are times to do that [apply pressure], and times not to do that. When you're going for broke at the end of a meet and getting them ready for some of our larger competitions at the end of the year -- where the stakes are higher - it's OK to apply a little more pressure and let them feel it, and then go from there. If you're successful, it's great. If not, you've got to do some work on the backside of that, but usually they respond well when we apply pressure.''
Daniel Plaugher of Doddridge (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles) was one of three individual double winners in the boys A meet, along with Evan Childers of Buffalo (1,600, 3,200) and Evan Rose of Pocahontas (shot put, discus). Catholic's boys set meet marks in the 4x100 (44.8) and 4x200 (1:34.27).
The Bulldogs girls team, like its boys, came into the Gazette/FOC Relays ranked No. 2 in its division by RunWV.com, trailing only a Little Kanawha Conference rival (St. Marys boys, Williamstown girls).
Led by a distance double from Bethany Carroll (800, 1,600), Doddridge ended with 165 points, 20 more than Catholic, which won four of the five relay events.
Alexandrine Ratnani of Catholic led the 100 and 200 and also ran on the 4x100 team that turned in a meet-record clocking of 53.79 seconds. Emily Sherrard of Catholic cleared a record 9-6 in the pole vault.
Lantz donated the other girls record Saturday with a time of 48.15 in the 300 hurdles. She also took the 400 in 1:02.65 to go along with her high jump and long jump victories on Friday.