By Steve Keenan
RIPLEY — Several local individuals and one team punched tickets to this week’s state championships during regional cross country competition on a cold, overcast Thursday at Cedar Lakes.
In the Class AAA Region 3 boys race, Greenbrier East’s Levi Snedegar and Oak Hill’s Cody Gillespie went 2-3 behind George Washington’s Matthew Brafford, who cruised to a winning clocking of 16 minutes, 22.6 seconds on the 3.1-mile course. Snedegar crossed in 17:29.9 and Gillespie in 17:34.4.
“We went out too hard in the first mile (about 5 minutes flat),” Snedegar admitted. “Before the race, we saw the conditions, so (the goal was) to survive and advance.
“It obviously wasn’t the time I wanted, but …”
“Levi was pacing me through,” said Gillespie. “I knew I was going to place, so I’m not disappointed or surprised (with his time).”
Gillespie’s teammate, Nick Oxendale, also earned a qualifying berth with a seventh-place effort (18:15.6).
“I honestly haven’t been so excited about a finish like this in a long, long time,” said Oxendale, a senior. “It’s something I’ll remember for a long time.”
The Ripley boys scored 44 points to grab the team spoils. Oak Hill (fourth) missed qualifying by 16 points and one position.
On the girls side, Woodrow Wilson’s Emily Fedders finished second with a time of 20:44.5, trailing winner Peyton Panger of Capital (19:54.9).
Other finishers for the Red Devils were: boys — Kris Balsamo, 19th, 18:59.9; Nick Treadway, 27th, 19:51.5; Chris Shumaker, 29th, 20:07.5; Seth Blake, 36th, 20:43.8; and Ricky Epperly, 40th, 20:56.5; and girls — Sierra Seay, 30th, 25:57.9; Brianna Baker, 32nd, 26:04.4; and Hannah Fridley, 41st, 27:58.8.
Earlier in the day, the Nicholas County boys scored 78 points to place third in the Class AA-A Region 4 event, earning a return trip to the state meet for the first time in three or four years.
Junior Matt Christiansen toured the 5-kilometer course in 18:10.6 to claim fifth place overall and lead the Grizzlies. In addition to Christiansen, the Nicholas team is comprised of Jackson Reed, Mason Yarber, Juvenal Perez, Joe Yeager, Wes Carte and Cody Kelley.
With 65 points, Charleston Catholic won the AA-A boys trophy. Buffalo’s Hayden Harrison (17:35.68) won the individual title.
In the girls AA-A race, the Grizzlies’ Aidan Payton logged a fourth-place finish in 21:28.3.
“I felt really good,” said the sophomore, who admitted to some nerves. “I felt like I had a pretty good chance when I got to the hill with about 1 1/2 miles to go (she was in fifth place at that point).”
The state meet will be held Saturday, Nov. 2 at Cabell Midland High School.
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