By Steve Keenan
Making the jump to Class AAA has exposed the Oak Hill High School cross country team to a more intense competitive environment this fall.
“It makes you see a whole new world of talent,” said Oak Hill coach George Smith. “The regional alignment is a lot different.
“We’re looking at different teams we’ve never faced before and don’t know a lot about.”
The Red Devils and other Class AAA teams will compete Thursday in an invitational meet sponsored by George Washington High School at Tornado’s Meadow Wood Park. Beginning at 4:30 p.m., the meet will be contested on the same site which will host the state qualifier on Oct. 18.
“Thursday’s going to tell the tale of where we’re at,” said Smith. “All 10 of the regional schools will be there.”
Shady Spring, Capital, George Washington, Greenbrier East, Princeton, Ripley, Riverside, South Charleston and Woodrow Wilson join Oak Hill in Region 3.
Senior Wes Stowers, who was sixth and an all-state selection in the Class AA ranks last year, is leading the Red Devils this fall. Stowers is currently ranked eighth on the www.runwv.com list of the state’s top Class AAA runners, but he’s also recently battled some shin problems that put him on the shelf for last Saturday’s Wendy’s PikeView Invitational.
Without Stowers, the Red Devils beat Charleston Catholic by three points, 49-52, in the PikeView meet, their third team championship of the season. In September, Oak Hill placed sixth in the Geico Classic at Ona and third in the Chick-fil-A Invitational at Mineral Wells, with both of the latter meets featuring strong fields.
“Wes is one of those who runs solid all the time,” said Smith. “He ran so hard he’s developed a shin injury.
“He’s run 40 to 50 miles a week since December. You log that many miles and that’s what happens.”
Stowers was seventh in 17 minutes, 17:08 seconds in the Geico meet, which was staged on the state meet course.
Local chiropractor Mike Kominsky is working with Stowers to get him healthy.
Cody Gillespie is the Devils’ second runner, and Tony Tredway, also a Red Devil soccer player, is usually third when he’s available to run. “We’re a little better with Tony in there.”
Nick Oxendale is fourth and Joel Bracken fifth. Rounding out the roster are Daniel Pritt, the sixth runner, and two freshmen — Seth Blake and Jonathan Humphreys.
“The guys are still being competitive,” said Smith. “If we’re still in double-A, we’re the top of the list.”
The Oak Hill girls have six on the roster but have managed to complete just one race with a full scoring complement of five. “It’s just a matter of getting them all on the same page,” Smith said.
Sophomore Sierra Seay is the top runner, and junior Tierra Roop has been the second runner. Also in the mix are Hannah Fridley, Mikayla Ortiz, McCayla Greenwood and Brianna Baker.