By Steve Keenan
OAK HILL —
One wasn’t a huge fan of Tuesday’s oppressive weather. The other found it a little more palatable.
Conditions notwithstanding, both ultimately conquered them — and their respective fields — with front-running performances in the annual Oak Hill High School Invitational cross country meet.
Posting individual wins on a hot, muggy day were Woodrow Wilson junior Emily Fedders and Oak Hill junior Cody Gillespie.
Fedders toured the 3.1-mile course on the Oak Hill High campus in 20 minutes, 5 seconds to earn top individual honors in the girls division. Shady Spring’s Nicole Hegele (21:11) was runner-up and Nicholas County’s Aidan Payton (21:33) placed third.
“It was really hot,” Fedders exclaimed afterwards. “I felt better than I thought I would, but (to me) it’s nicer if it rains” and is “a little cooler.”
Fedders said she took the lead fairly early Tuesday. “I tried to start fast so I wouldn’t get stuck behind people. I wasn’t really expecting to be in the lead that early.”
“I’m running well so far,” added Fedders, a 13th-place state meet finisher last fall. At the end of the season, she says she would “like to break 19:30, whatever place that ends up being.”
Rounding out the girls Top 10 were: 4) Katelyn Odle, PikeView, 21:56; 5) Sophie Klein, PikeView, 22:12; 6) Courtney Cook, Shady Spring, 22:23; 7) Lauren Lindsay, Greenbrier East, 22:24; 8) Lauryn Hatfield, PikeView, 22:27; 9) Jaelynn Parks, Greenbrier East, 22:48; and 10) Madison Frame, Richwood, 22:49.
After Fedders led the girls to the finish line, Gillespie took control on his home course, registering a time of 16:38 to beat teammate and runner-up Nick Oxendale (17:32), third-place Tanner Cantley (17:46), of Liberty, and the rest of the boys to the line.
“I felt good. I had a little cramp before a mile in,” said Gillespie. “But I kind of like the heat when I run.”
Despite not getting to test himself against region standouts such as Levi Snedegar, of Greenbrier East, and Jason Weitzel, of PikeView, neither whom competed Tuesday, Gillespie was excited with his effort. “It’s a pretty nice win,” he said.
He indicated he ran the course twice and walked it another time Monday in preparation. On Tuesday, the strategy was to “try to surge on the corners like coach teaches me, go hard up the hills and have a hard finish. I can only get better and show more improvement.”
Fourth through 10th in the boys race were: 4) Dakota Cecil, PikeView, 17:57; 5) Matt Christiansen, Nicholas County, 17:59; 6) Justin Harper, Shady Spring, 18:13; 7) Justin Snyder, Princeton, 18:15; 8) Kris Balsamo, Oak Hill, 18:18; 9) Joseph Cornett, Greater Beckley Christian, 18:26; and 10) Nathaniel Evans, Westside, 18:28.
Capturing overall team titles in the high school division were the PikeView girls and the Oak Hill boys. The Panthers tallied 57 points to outdistance Greenbrier East (65), Nicholas County (69) and four other teams on the girls side. In the 13-team boys field, Oak Hill scored 53 to cruise past Westside (103), Nicholas County and the rest of the field.
Prior to the high school races, a large number of middle school teams from the region took part in a race covering about 1.8 miles.
Individual winners were PikeView Middle’s Daniel Baldwin and Richwood Middle’s Caitlin Cowell.
Baldwin churned a time of 9:23, with runner-up Miles Kominsky, of Shady Spring, clocking 10:05 and third-place Ethan Leef, of John Adams Middle, crossing in 10:10.
In the girls race, Cowell also won easily, logging a 10:26 effort. Summersville’s Lucianna Martin (10:57) was second and Shady Spring’s Erica Hegele (11:01) was third.
Shady Spring earned the boys team championship with a low score of 27 points, followed by Eastern Greenbrier (64) and John Adams (88).
Summersville scored 33 to nab the girls team crown, followed by Shady Spring (71) and John Adams (73).
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