By Steve Keenan
Not known for a strong distance running pedigree year in and year out, Webster County High School competitors nonetheless made their mark at Saturday’s state cross country championships.
Three Webster runners achieved all-state status based on their performances in the afternoon portion of the championship meet at Cabell Midland High School.
Junior Brettley Harris, an all-state performer a year ago, moved up from sixth in 2012 to second in 2013, covering the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 27.72 seconds to finish behind only Bridgeport’s Abe Merinar (16:20.05) in the Class AA-A boys ranks. Harris’ teammate, sophomore Austin Hayes (17:13.35), placed 10th to secure all-state honors, too. And, not to be left out of the party, the Highlanders’ Samantha Stout ran the 3.1-mile course in 20:22.44 to grab sixth place and all-state status.
“It’s a pretty exciting day to be a Highlander,” said Webster County coach Steven Nutter. “We had three first-team all-staters, and the first Webster (cross country) girl ever.”
“It feels pretty good,” Harris said of his runner-up effort. Eyeing a Top 3 finish, he said he led the race for the first mile before Merinar closed the gap and took control. “He ran a great race,” Harris said.
Nutter said Harris ran “an excellent race.” He also praised the running of Hayes, a performer in his first year who exceeded pre-race predictions by 10 spots, and Stout, who spends more of her time as a Webster cheerleader and “wasn’t on anybody’s radar.”
Finishing sandwiched exactly halfway between Harris and Hayes in sixth place in AA-A was PikeView junior Jason Weitzel (16:46.43).
“My main goal was to get all-state (Top 10),” said Weitzel, who placed 12th last year and 13th as a freshman. “I would have liked for my time to be faster, but it was pretty good for today (due to sloppy, windy conditions).”
A few spots behind Stout in the girls race was Nicholas County sophomore Aidan Payton (12th, 20:55.66).
“I felt really good,” said Payton, who turned in a personal best time. “I was in 17th until 2 miles, then I passed some girls.
“I’m very satisfied.”
It was hardly the outcome for which Greenbrier East’s Levi Snedegar had toiled.
The Spartan, predicted by www.runwv.com to place fifth, instead couldn’t finish due to an injury. Racing downhill in the event’s latter stages, he slipped on some mud and took a tumble.
“My right leg kicked out, and I landed on my right ankle and rolled it,” said Snedegar. “I managed to hold it together through the concession stand, but I couldn’t take it any more. It was throbbing so bad.
“It’s somewhat disappointing, something like that happening at the state meet (in his senior year),” added Snedegar, who started out cautiously but had worked his way to near the Top 10 at the time of his spill. “I want to congratulate all the guys who got all-state.
“We’ll be back.”
“It’s very disappointing,” said Greenbrier East coach Jerry Long. “I’ve seen the training, the time, the dedication Levi puts in.
“It hasn’t come easy for (him).”
For the Oak Hill boys, junior Cody Gillespie placed 33rd with a time of 17:22.56, while senior Nick Oxendale (18:20.37) was 67th.
Woodrow Wilson’s Emily Fedders placed 21st in 20:28.15 in the AAA girls race.
“We knew when we came here there would be lot of competition,” said her coach, Linda Adamos. “I could tell she’s disappointed.”
Class AAA team winners were the Morgantown girls (40 points) and the University boys (64). Individual triple-A winners were University’s Amelia Paladino (17:55.84) and George Washington’s Matthew Brafford (15:39.53).
AA-A team winners were the Philip Barbour girls (91 points in a tie with Charleston Catholic that was broken by going to the teams’ sixth runners) and the Bridgeport boys (45). Individual titlists were Merinar and Grafton’s Alicia Parsons (19:03.23).
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