Clay Battelle, Joe Smith, Local Sports, Morgantown, News, Preston, Sports, University

University’s boys’ cross country team finishes 3rd in state meet

ONA — As University freshman Josh Edwards crossed the two mile mark during Saturday’s WVSSAC Cross-Country State Championships, he was at the front of the pack, neck-and-neck with Wheeling Park senior Ronnie Saunders. So far, he held strong in the lead, but he knew that might not last much longer.

“He throws down that mile — two to three — faster than anyone I’ve seen in my running career,” Edwards said. “As soon as I saw him get in front of me, I knew it was going to be like that. It didn’t discourage me, I didn’t, like, laugh at it, but I kind of expected it.”

Edwards proved correct in his assumption, as Saunders took the lead headed into the final stretch of action and never looked back, cruising to a 12-second victory.

Although Edwards wasn’t able to stave off his more-experienced foe, he still earned runner-up honors with a time of 16:07. He was the only freshman to earn a top-ten finish at the meet.

“My pre-season goal was just to make top-ten. Starting the season, my coaches told me if I worked hard I have a good chance to make the top-five. Throughout the season, I just began to hold myself to a higher standard,” he said.

The Hawks managed a third-place finish as a team, edged out by Cabell Midland and Hurricane in the end. It was the capstone to a season that turned out much differently than anyone donning the red-and-gold expected it would.

“We lost three good seniors from last year. Going into this year, we didn’t think we had a shot in hell of doing anything good,” Edwards said. “Our season was a lot better than anyone predicted, and we’re really proud of that.”
Morgantown failed to defend its state title, but still turned in a respectable performance, with junior Jackson Core recording a ninth-place finish with a time of 16:38 en route to leading the Mohigans to a fifth-place team finish.

“This is the most progressive team I’ve ever seen at MHS in terms of getting better,” Core said. “Last year we lost the majority of our varsity team — pretty much everyone as far as seniors went. You can expect a lot from this team next year, and this is a huge victory for us.”

MHS coach Mike Ryan discussed the youth of his team and the challenges they faced in making it back to the meet the Mohigans won just one year prior.

“We brought a very young team, and I’m very happy with the progression they’ve made this season. They came out and ran like a Morgantown team should run at the state meet,” he said.

Preston junior Cole Friend competed as the sole runner for the Knights’ on the boys side, nabbing seventh-place with a mark of 16:31. Friend improved one spot on his finish from last year’s race — when he surprised the field with a top-ten finish. He wasn’t sure just how well his second showing at the state meet would go after battling an injury throughout the season, though.

“I’m happy, but I keep thinking about what could have happened if I hadn’t gotten injured,” he said. “I was wanting a championship today, but stuff happens.”

In the Class A-AA race, Clay-Battelle sophomore Holden Ammons crossed the line in 61st with a time of 18:37. He was the only representative for the C-B boys.