Local Sports, Sports

Morgantown Invitational set for Saturday morning at Mylan

MORGANTOWN – One of the largest track and field meets of the entire season will be hosted by Morgantown High Saturday at Mylan Park. The Morgantown Invitational will have 22 different schools being represented, with schools coming from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

All local schools will be attending the meet also (MHS, UHS, Trinity Christian, Preston, and Clay Battelle).

For the Mohigans, success has come all-around early on. Two strong outings in the recent weeks (one in Parkersburg two weeks ago and one in South Hill, PA last week) have given the MHS track athletes great preparation coming into this important meet on Saturday. Head coach Steve Blinco says one of the highlights of the meet will be the boys 1600-meter race, as this year’s field could be one of the most competitive we’ve ever seen with two runners that will be in the field posting times this year of just over four minutes already.

Standing out from the rest of the team though, is the MHS girls’ distance runners. Two weeks ago in Parkersburg, the 4×800-meter relay team set a new state record. They also went on to win every single distance relay at the South Hills open event in Pittsburgh last week. If that wasn’t enough, an MHS female took every distance race individually also. Irene Riggs won the 800-meter and posted a new personal best of 2:14. Lea Hatcher won the 1600-meter race, and Jennifer O’Palko won the 3200-meter run. Distance coach Mike Ryan can see the work his team puts in paying off on when it matters.

“The girls have been working very hard all winter and that has carried into the start of the season,” Ryan said of his record-setting runners. “We have so much depth in the distance events and the girls do a good job of pushing each other at practice every day. It’s an advantage most distance runners at other schools don’t have.”

The Hawks of University High and head coach Ed Frohnapfel have also seen success early in the season. Frohnapfel says getting to run at such a huge meet on your local track is something his team is looking forward to.

“We are looking forward to running at our local track this weekend. It is still early in the season and we have yet to get some consistency figured out on many events, which is made more difficult with the uncertain weather,” the UHS head coach said. “This Saturday’s meet looks to be the most competitive meet we will see until our Region 1 meet in May. I am hoping for excellent performances from our team, regardless of the weather.”

“Sierra Lanham has been impressive on the girls side, with excellent performances in the long jump and sprints. Also on our girls team, the distance runners have been improving every meet, with many running personal bests. Our boys team has had winning performances in the long jump from Daminn Cunningham and in the discus from Colin McBee. The boys distance team has been dominant in the early meets. Notably Drew Zundell ran a 9:28 3200 at last Saturday’s Bellaire Relay, which is personal best.”

The Trinity Christian Warrior track team will be in attendance at Mylan also, something head coach John Barnett says his team is very excited to be a part of. The Warriors have made the best of the two meets they’ve participated in and Barnett is confident is his young team.

“Even though our first meet was snowed out, we were able to run a great opening meet at Clay Battelle and a second meet at Parkersburg South. We had one senior last year and only one boy and one girl senior this year. We are still a young team, but we return several state qualifiers and medalists from last year,” said Barnett. “We have been blessed to have several full weeks of practice too. As a coach I believe it is critical to bond as a team and work together. We’re still figuring out what we have and where to place them, which is a good problem to have.”

Through two meets, the Warriors have already seen two personal-bests set and two school records broken, one by a freshman who broke the record for 300-meter hurdles the very first time he ran it.

“Through 2 meets we’ve had several PR’s and 2 school records which is very encouraging moving forward. Levi Teets has been running really strong and Jenna Barnett set her personal-best in the 1600 and 800 in her first meet. Both played basketball and to be running this well early in the season is outstanding,” Barnett said of the season so far. “Several freshmen have been impressive as well. Rylan Sharp has excelled as a key member of the girls 4×100 and helped set a school record in the 4×200. Brock Shuba may be the biggest surprise. As a freshman that has never ran track, he ran a great time and placed in his first race in the 100. We are expecting a lot from him in the future. Another athlete we are excited about is freshman Chase Livengood. He ran Cross Country for me in the fall and placed 11th in the region. He’s just an incredible athlete with a raw athleticism. He broke the school record in 300 hurdles the first time he tried the event.  He’s placed in high jump and long jump and he ran a sub 1 in the 400 in his first race.”

““The track season is starting out really well. The team is working hard and is invested. As we approach OVAC’s and Regionals, I’m just hoping that both my teammates and I continue to get faster. Obviously, our ultimate goal is to make it to states and to do well. With a meet this big early in the season against great competition, it not only helps us see where we are right now, but it also pushes us to get better,” Trinity sophomore Jenna Barnett said.

Events will begin at 11:00 A.M. Saturday morning at the Mylan Park track and field complex.

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