KINGWOOD — TaShala Turner is off to Ona, and she’s looking for redemption.
Turner and the University Hawks girls’ cross-country team qualified for the state meet Oct. 19, at the WVSSAC Class AAA Region I championships, held at Preston High.
Turner paced the field from beginning to end with a time of 18:58.
“I wanted to lead out and see if anyone would go with me,” Turner said of her race strategy. “I tried to push up the hills and get a good workout.”
Now, Turner will make her return to the state championships, where she failed to finish the race last year. This time, the goal is to go in even stronger than she was her junior season.
“I want to redeem myself from last year, because I didn’t even get to finish,” Turner said. “I just want to take my training — my training has been going really well this year — and prove myself.”
UHS sophomore Zoe Shetty crossed the line in second, at 19:46, to complete the 1-2 finish for the Hawks. Freshman Caroline Kirby came in fifth, followed by senior Peyton Kukura, in seventh, and sophomore Emma Williams, in 11th, to round out the top five for the Hawks.
They finished first at the meet, with 26 points.
The UHS girls head to the state meet looking to defend their state championship from 2016. According to head coach Ed Frohnafel, the goals and expectations are nothing less.
“We want to run fast, and finish first,” Frohnafel said. He believes his team is ready to tackle the challenge.
“We plan on getting a couple good workouts in, then resting up later in the week,” he said. “Pretty much the team to beat will be Morgantown, I think.”
The Mohigans join the Hawks at state off the strong performance of their senior trio of Samantha Hatcher, Avigail Radabaugh and Myah McAlister. Hatcher paced the Mohigans with a third-place finish, notching a time of 19:54.
“My goal was to stay with the pack and work the hills,” Hatcher said of her race strategy. “I want to just enjoy it all and let all the hard work pay off.”
Radabaugh finished in sixth (20:10), followed by McAlister in eighth (20:38). Freshman Amelia Haddox finished 10th and sophomore Athena Young 13th to round out the Mohigans’ top five. They finished second overall, with 40 points.
“I thought we ran well, and had a good race,” Morgantown head coach Mike Ryan said. “We came out and did what we needed to do, and that was qualify for states.”
The team to beat at state will still be the Hawks, according to Ryan. However, he thinks his team is up to challenge.
“We’re sure gonna try,” he said of his team’s odds against the Hawks.
The two Morgantown area schools will be joined at the state meet by Wheeling Park, whose girls came in third overall Thursday, with 77 points.
Victoria Carr (21:21.81) was the top finisher for Preston, in 12th.
The state championship meet will be held Oct. 28, at Cabell Midland High School.
CLASS AAA BOYS
Preston High is returning to the state championship meet.
The Knights, paced by senior Ward Ries’ second-place finish, nabbed the second overall team finish on their home course. That allowed them to qualify for the state meet for the first time in four years.
“We’ve had a long history of being there, but we’ve kind of had a cold spell the past few years,” PHS head coach Paul Martin said. “It means a lot.”
Martin said the team had hoped to advance to state, but wasn’t sure until after the race whether the dream would become a reality.
“We anticipated being top three, but we weren’t sure,” Martin said. “We ran extremely well, and we’re definitely excited to knock off University High.”
Martin said the goal at the state meet is to finish top five overall.
Ries’ second-place finish came with a time of 17:06. He was followed in third by teammate Cole Friend, who finished in 17:11.
“I wanted to get second. Anything less than second I didn’t want,” Ries said of his race goals.
According to Ries, he is proud to lead his team into the state meet, and is excited for what it means for the school.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “I feel like Preston High athletics gets the short straw, and people count us out a lot. But cross-country, we don’t like that.”
Friend shared his teammate’s sentiments. “It feels great. The team hasn’t been to states since like 2013, and it just feels great.”
Ries and Friend were joined by teammates Wyatt Wolfe (15th), Hayden Thomas (20th) and Trey Smith-Tatham (23rd) to round out the Knights’ top five. They finished with a team total of 63 points.
The Knights came in behind Morgantown, which finished as the team regional champion. The Mohigans, led by senior Andrew Jones and Andrew Christy, had their top five finishers all in the top 10, led by Jones, in fourth place, with a 17:11. Mikael Virji placed sixth, Gideon Temple eighth and Michael Hoefler 10th.
Ryan and his team are looking to defend their state title next weekend.
“I think we’re going to have some good competition in the Hurricane team, and Parkersburg has a good team as well,” Ryan said.
“We’re just fine tuning,” he said of the strategy for state. “We’ll get a workout in early next week, get some runs in, and keep it pretty light.
“We’ll focus on race strategy and coming out and running hard.”
The Mohigans and Knights may have been the main stories as teams, but UHS senior Philip White was dominant in his individual performance. He won in 16:48, and led his team to a state qualifying third-place overall finish.
Michael Gharib added a seventh for UHS, with Nathaniel Edwards 16th, Jordan Thomas 19th and Nicholas Summerlin 21st.
“Before we go in, we’ve got to work on some people’s mental states, help my teammates find their race strategy,” White said regarding the goal heading to state. “I think if my teammates all run to the best of their ability, we should be able to grab second.”
As for White himself?
“First place is the goal,” he said.
CLASS AA-A GIRLS
ELKINS — Trinity’s Emily Saurborn ran 25:03.56 to place 20th at her regional — the best among three Warriors.
Clay-Battelle’s sole runner, Haley Barr (28:01.51), was 34th.
CLASS AA-A BOYS
ELKINS — Clay-Battelle sent a full team and Kaden Statler (20th, 20:44.73) was the top runner.