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MSAC track: GW’s Peyatte, Brafford eying postseason; Capital’s Slater shines

By Rick Ryan, Assistant Sports Editor

With the regional track meets coming up in less than a week, teams regarded as contenders are still trying to fine tune their squads in order to put their best feet forward at the state meet.

Same with individuals who are in the running for event championships, like George Washington’s Nick Peyatte and Matt Brafford.

Peyatte (pronounced PAY-ett), a junior weight thrower who holds the top Class AAA effort in the shot put in West Virginia, is using meets like Friday’s Mountain State Athletic Conference championship to hone his skills for the stretch run.

“This definitely helps,’’ Peyatte said. “You get most of the people here who are going to be in the states. The regional list of teams winds up being different.’’

Parkersburg’s boys and Winfield’s girls wound up as the MSAC team titlists on a night when eight meet records were set, perhaps the most electric being when Capital pole vaulter Tristan Slater, the defending state champion, twice bettered his personal record.

With hundred of fans loudly cheering his efforts, Slater first cleared 15-8, then went over on his first try at what was listed as 16 feet. Measurements were taken after the vault and the mark was subsequently lowered to 15-11 ¾.

Just a sophomore, Slater has his sights set on the state meet record of 17 feet set in 1995 by Parkersburg’s Casey Freed. Slater’s 15-11 ¾ is the best in the state since Freed’s effort.

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Peyatte, who won last week’s Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays at an even 50 feet (a season best), only propelled the shot 46-9 to win on Friday as most competitors had trouble with their footing after rains drained sand into the shot put circle.

He knows he’s capable of better, since he fouled last week on a put of 51-4.

“So I kind of have an idea,’’ Peyatte said. “Hopefully I can get my PR next week at the regionals or maybe close. Around 51 or 52 in the state, that’s definitely the real goal.’’

Peyatte realizes his best has to get better.

Over the previous 10 state meets, there has only been one Class AAA shot put champ with an effort of less than 51 feet, 5 inches, that coming in 2007 when a put of 50-5 1/4 won.

Peyatte knows other possible 50-footers are out there lurking around the state, and he has to improve.

“Absolutely,’’ he said. “I do enough research on RunWV.com where I can get a grasp of where everybody is. It does kind of hurt not being able to see the other contestants. I haven’t seen all of them, but I know Tannor Hill of Point Pleasant is a great thrower and Dylan Rippeto of Parkersburg South. In fact, [Hill] fouled last week around 51 feet.

“My goal right now is around 52 feet. That would definitely make me happy — or actually getting one 51 right now that’s in bounds.’’

Peyatte, who also placed third in the MSAC discus on Friday, wound up fifth in the AAA shot last year at 45-11.

Brafford, meanwhile, finds himself in a position of trailing his own list of accomplishments.

Already, the senior distance runner has won one state cross country title and been runner-up in another to Jacob Burcham of Cabell Midland, no small feat as Burcham is one of the best distance runners the state has ever produced.

Brafford also ran second to Burcham in last year’s state track meet 3,200 and posted the state’s No. 2 seasonal time in the event at 9:17.98 — again second to Burcham, who now runs at Oklahoma, the same place where Brafford has signed for college.

However, Brafford hasn’t come close to that time or his 4:23.12 in the 1,600 so far this year, with season’s bests that he lowered to 9:36.63 and 4:26.24 in winning twice Friday at the MSACs. He entered the weekend with only the state’s No. 5 clocking in the 1,600 and No. 7 in the 3,200.

But he said that’s all part of his plan.

“Really, my main focus this year was not to peak too early,’’ Brafford said. “Last year, I ran a 9:17 at the Gazette Relays and so I just wanted to make sure I didn’t peak too early this year. It’s really important for me to get the titles in the state meet and I just want to make sure I’m trained fully for that race this year.

“It seems like every year that the Gazettes is where everybody peaks, and for me especially, it’s happened that way the past two, three years. This year, my final year, I want to peak at the state meet.’’

Brafford said his goals are to eclipse GW’s respective school records of 9:17 in the 3,200 and 4:21 in the 1,600.

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Stuck in between last week’s prestigious Gazette/FOC Relays and next week’s regionals, the MSAC meet is sometimes regarded as an afterthought in the minds of athletes, coaches and fans.

However, despite a steady drizzle at the outset, it was apparent not everybody was taking the MSACs for granted, as Winfield’s girls turned in a meet-record effort in the first event on the track, the 4x800-meter relay, touring the course in 10 minutes, 2.99 seconds.

Others meant business as well, as six other meet records were set.

Capital’s Peyton Panger accounted for two, shaving more than 11 seconds off the mark in the girls 3,200 with a time of 11:18.87 and almost eight seconds in the 1,600 at 5:00.75.

Sarah Bever of Parkersburg helped accomplish two more as she ran the 300 hurdles in 46.41 seconds and also competed on the Big Reds’ shuttle hurdle team that was clocked in 1:05.23.

Hurricane’s Abby Watson unleashed a record heave of 42-4 in the shot put, the top AAA performance in the state this year, and Parkersburg’s Evan Rhodes ran a 38.4 in the boys 300 hurdles.

Besides Brafford, Panger, Bever and Watson (shot and discus), there were three other individual double winners Friday — Spring Valley’s Jacob Kilgore (boys 400, 800), Parkersburg’s Chandler Hamilton (boys 100, 200) and St. Albans’ Anacia Hines (girls 100, 200).

The MSAC coaches announced their first-ever track athletes and coaches of the year award winners — Parkersburg’s Hamilton (boys athlete) and Rod O’Donnell (boys coach), St. Albans’ Hines (girls athlete) and Winfield’s David Bailey (girls coach),

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


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