The Dominion Post  

Morgantown, University, Preston seek state XC berths

Created on:   Wed, Oct 18, 2017   10:28 PM

Last modified:   Wed, Oct 18, 2017   10:28 PM

For The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — Two months have gone by since the start of the cross-country season, and following numerous successes by runners from Morgantown, University and Preston high schools, only one goal remains: The state meet, Oct. 28, in Ona.

On Oct. 19, the Mohigans, Hawks and Knights, among others, will take to the course for the start of that push to state with the Region 1 championship, in Kingwood.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for all year,” MHS head coach Mike Ryan said. “This is what we’ve been looking forward to. The competition is going to be fierce.”

That will be especially true on the boys’ side. Region 1 includes not only the three area schools (ranked first, third and seventh in the state, respectively) but Wheeling Park as well. A total of four top-10 teams, including the Patriots, will compete Oct. 19 for one of three berths to states.

“There’s a top-10 team that’s going to be staying home. I think that’s a shame,” Ryan said. “When you look at the teams in our region and how well they’re running, somebody is going to miss out. That means every team is going to have to bring their ‘A’ game.”

“This is one of our better boys’ teams that we’ve had, and I would say it’s one of my top four teams ever,” Preston head coach Paul Martin said.

“Ironically, we always seem to pick a year to be good when everyone else is too. The competition is great, but only three of these teams are going to advance. We have to make sure we’re one of those three.”

Preston has been much-improved this season, claiming a Big 10 conference championship on the boys’ side a week ago.

“For our boys’ program, it’s probably been four or five years since we’ve been to state,” Martin said. “It’s a big deal to get back. We’re coming off a Big 10 championship. That shows you that this is a good team. A conference championship really means nothing, though, if you don’t qualify for the state meet.”

While a Preston return to state would be a welcome change from years past, the recent run for Morgantown and University has almost turned qualifying for the WVSSAC championship into an afterthought.

At least one of the two Mon County schools has claimed a team title in cross-country every year since 2009. The pair combined to win both championships three times in the last four seasons.

This year, the results seem to be playing out similarly to those from 2016, with UHS dominating the girls’ competition and MHS leading the way on the boys’ side.

“For this girls’ team, complacency doesn’t seem to be a problem,” UHS head coach Ed Frohnapfel said. “They’re on their toes, and I think they are really focused. As for the guys, we still have work to do there, and we’re running out of time.”

“A lot of the work has been done. The hay is in the barn, as I like to say,” Ryan said. “Really, the only thing you can do is mess it up at this point.”

All three schools will hope to avoid any missteps Oct. 19, especially with a shot at state on the line.