The race to the cross country state podium begins with regional championships to be held across West Virginia on Thursday.
State meet qualification process:
To qualify as an individual: Each region will qualify 20 percent of the total number of (Class AA and Class A) contestants that start the regional race to the state meet, inclusive of those individuals that qualified as a team qualifier. A minimum of 10 individuals will qualify from each region. Regular math rounding (.5 and up, round up, below .5, round down) will apply. Please note: Individual qualifying is not separated by classes.
To qualify as a team: This depends on how many complete teams (five or more runners) start the race in a regional. Team qualifying standards will apply to "AA" schools, as a separate group and to "A" schools as a separate group: If only one full team in a single classification starts at regional, it qualifies. If two to five teams in a classification start at regional, the top two qualify. If six to nine teams in a classification start at regional, the top three qualify. If more than 10 teams in a classification start at regional, the top four qualify.
Teams competing include: Berkeley Springs, Cameron, East Fairmont, Fairmont Senior, Frankfort, Grafton, Hundred, Keyser, Madonna, Magnolia, North Marion, Oak Glen, Paden City, Paw, Philip Barbour, Ritchie, St. Marys, Tyler Consolidated, Weir, Valley Wetzel and Wheeling Central.
The girls race will begin at 4 p.m., with the boys to follow at 4:40 p.m. Both races will be held at West Taylor Elementary School.
Fairmont Senior's Ethan Kincell will look to lead the defending state champion Polar Bears back to the state meet with a regional victory.
In addition to Kincell, fellow Fairmont Senior runner Logan Zuchelli and Tyler Consolidated junior Spencer Corley list among expected top individuals. Philip Barbour senior Noah Ward returns after finishing second at last season's regional meet.
In addition to Fairmont Senior, Ritchie County, Frankfort and East Fairmont are expected among top teams.
East Fairmont junior Erykah Christopher leads a talented group of runners vying for the individual title.
Of last year's top 10 finishers, only two graduated. Christopher, the reigning champ, returns in addition to runner-up Belle Harvey, of Berkeley Springs, and third-place finisher Olivia Frye, of Philip Barbour. Other expected challengers include a trio of Fairmont Senior runners in Carlina Jacquez, Mackenzie Stanley and Lydia Falkenstein.
Fairmont Senior, St. Marys and Philip Barbour are expected to battle for podium positions.
Teams competing include: Brooke, Buckhannon-Upshur, John Marshall, Morgantown, Preston, University and Wheeling Park.
Events begin 4:30 p.m. at University High School in Morgantown.
Sophomore Josh Edwards, the 2018 state runner-up, returns to lead University against rival Morgantown.
Edwards claimed the regional championship last season ahead of runner-up Jackson Core, a Morgantown senior. Both will contend this season with challenger Cole Friend, of Preston County.
University and Morgantown are expected to compete for the team championship, with Wheeling Park also contending.
Crosstown rivals University and Morgantown will battle for the crown, as the Hawks look to defend their home course.
Mohigans sophomore Lea Hatcher leads among all Class AAA this season, and she recently placed fifth in the Girls Easterns division race at the Manhattan Invitational (NY). Morgantown runners Athena Young and Irene Riggs will also look to lift the Mohigans.
For University, senior Zoe Shetty and junior Caroline Kirby return after placing one-two at last year's regional championship. In total, the Hawks placed five among the regional top 10 to take the regional title before winning the state championship.
Teams competing include: Braxton, Bridgeport, Clay-Battelle, Doddridge, East Hardy, Elkins, Gilmer, Harman, Lewis, Liberty Harrison, Lincoln, Moorefield, Notre Dame, Pendleton, Pickens, Roane, Robert C. Byrd, South Harrison, Trinity Christian, Tucker, Tygarts Valley, Union and WV School for the Deaf.
The girls will race first at 1 p.m., with the boys to follow at 2 p.m. Both races will be held at the Davis & Elkins College athletic complex in Elkins.
Perennial power Bridgeport returns to defend its regional crown led by Jackson Jacobs and Cade Robinson.
The Indians placed four among the top six en route to winning last season's regional championship, with Jacobs taking second place individually.
Doddridge County junior Carter Lipscomb returns to defend his regional title.
After placing five runners among the top 10 at last year's regional meet, Bridgeport will look to lock up another team victory this season.
Indians senior Emma Campbell and sophomore Emerson Grafton list as the top returners from last year's regional results, after placing third and fourth, respectively. Notre Dame freshman Erin Frosch and Doddridge freshmen Emily Gola and Hailey Keith are also expected to challenge.
In team standings, Elkins and Doddridge County will also look to join Bridgeport on the podium.
Teams competing include: Hampshire, Hedgesville, Jefferson, Martinsburg, Musselman, Spring Mills and Washington.
The regional championship will be held at Hampshire. No race times were made available.
Hampshire County junior Christopher Lucas returns to defend his regional title from last season.
Lucas led a trio of Hampshire runners to a one-two-three finish, but Musselman and Spring Mills took the top two team spots, with Hampshire third.
Hampshire enters as the team favorite to win.
Hampshire returns to defend its title after placing four runners among the top five en route to last season's regional championship win.
Junior Jadyn Judy and sophomore Alexandrea Kile finished one-two last season. This year, Musselman junior Madison Gray and Hedgesville sophomore Dakota Johnson enter among favorites.
Teams competing include: Bluefield, Charleston Catholic, Clay, Fayetteville, Greater Beckley Christian, Greenbrier West, Herbert Hoover, Independence, James Monroe, Liberty Raleigh, Mount View, Nicholas, Oak Hill, PikeView, Pocahontas, Richwood, River View, Shady Spring, Webster, Westside and Wyoming East.
The girls race will commence at 3 p.m., with the boys to follow at 3:45 p.m. Both races will be held at Westside High School in Clear Fork.
Oak Hill senior Seth Crosier will look to defend his championship against a slew of challengers.
In addition to Crosier, Bluefield senior Lavon McClarrin, last season's regional runner-up, will contend, as well as Herbert Hoover sophomore Caleb Siders, Nicholas County's Preston Prather and Ethan Board, PikeView freshman Braden Ward, Richwood sophomore Trey Stanley and Shady Spring freshman Jaeden Holstein.
Nicholas County and PikeView are expected to battle for the team win.
PikeView junior Erin O'Sullivan won the 2018 regional by more than a minute and will look to continue her dominance on the field.
O'Sullivan, an All-State finisher last season, is expected to face her toughest challenge in Charleston Catholic junior Aubrie Custer.
The Irish list as favorites to win the team title.
Teams competing include: Capital, George Washington, Greenbrier East, Princeton, Riverside, South Charleston, St. Albans and Woodrow Wilson.
The girls will begin at 5:15 p.m., with the boys to follow at 5:55 p.m. Both races will be held at Beckley-Stratton Middle School in Beckley.
Seniors Jonah Stevens and Trevor Carson rank among the region's best and are expected to battle for the individual title.
Stevens, of Woodrow Wilson, lists as the top returning regional finisher after placing second last season, while Carson finished third.
Woodrow Wilson, the defending regional champion, is expected to contend with Riverside, last year's runner-up, again for the team title, as well as George Washington.
Woodrow Wilson returns three top 10 runners from last season's regional champion squad.
George Washington's Katherine Sutton, last season's regional runner-up, Kara Edstrom and Maya Schneider, will challenge the Flying Eagles.
Teams competing include: Buffalo, Calhoun, Lincoln County, Logan, Mingo Central, Nitro, Parkersburg Catholic, Point Pleasant, Poca, Ravenswood, Scott, Sherman, Sissonville, St. Joseph, Tolsia, Van, Wayne, Williamstown, Winfield and Wirt.
The girls race will begin 1 p.m., with the boys to follow at 1:45 p.m. Both races will be held at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley.
Reigning state champion Winfield will make the first step in defense of its crown.
Winfield's Aaron Withrow, who graduated, captured last year's regional and state title wins, but Generals sophomore Matthew Scheneberg enters as the top returning finisher after placing fourth at last season's regional meet.
Both the defending individual and team champions return and enter as favorites to defend their titles.
Williamstown junior Ella Hesson and the Winfield girls team captured victories last season and return to lead the field.
The Generals placed five in the top 10 at last year's regional meet, but graduated three of those girls. This season, Winfield freshman Rachel Withrow and senior Kalei Jordan list among the top's best.
In addition to Hesson, fellow Yellowjacket runners Chloe Lightfritz and Natalie Sawin, both sophomores, will challenge for podium positions.
Teams competing include: Cabell Midland, Huntington, Hurricane, Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, Ripley and Spring Valley.
The girls race will start at 3 p.m., with the boys to begin at 3:45 p.m. Both races will be held at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley.
Hurricane senior Wyatt Hanshaw will look to follow his MSAC win by defending his regional crown.
Hanshaw edged Cabell Midland's Cooper Gibson and Sam LeRose at the conference championship, and both are expected to challenge Hanshaw again.
Midland will look to defend its state title by first capturing the regional championship. Hurricane and Parkersburg South are expected to also make the podium in team standings.
Defending state champion Madison Trippett, a Parkersburg senior, will look to return in strong form after missing the MSAC championships with a stress reaction.
While Trippett is expected to return, Ripley senior Tori Starcher, the reining West Virginia Gatorade Runner of the Year, will miss the regional meet with a stress reaction. Starcher, who recently verbally committed to Notre Dame, won the 2018 regional championship, but now will turn her focus to the track season.
With Starcher and Trippett both sidelined at the MSAC meet, Cabell Midland sophomore Emma Jenkins captured the individual win, and she's expected to race again to the podium with Hurricane freshman Audrey Hall.
Midland, the reigning state runner-up, is expected to compete for the regional title with Hurricane. Both teams tied at the MSAC meet, with the Knights taking victory with the sixth-runner tiebreaker.