The West Virginia high school cross country season culminates with the state championships at Cabell Midland in Ona on Saturday.
This year's events feature both reigning individual girls champions, with many contenders and hopefuls looking to reach the top of the podium.
The AAA girls race will begin at 10 a.m. to start the championship events, with the AAA boys to follow at 10:45 a.m. The AA-A girls race will begin at 1 p.m., with the AA-A boys to start at 1:45 p.m. Class A and AA runners will compete in the same race. Separate team state championships will be awarded to each class; however, All-States honors will be awarded regardless of class, to each race's top 10 finishers.
See below for a breakdown of top team and individual contenders in each race.
2018 individual champion: Aaron Withrow, Winfield senior (16:02.05)
2018 Class A team champion: Ritchie County (127 points)
2018 Class AA team champion: Fairmont Senior (70 points)
2018 individual champion: Ella Hesson, Williamstown sophomore (19:25.50)
2018 Class A team champion: Williamstown (98 points)
2018 Class AA team champion: Winfield (62 points)
2018 individual champion: Ronnie Saunders, Wheeling Park senior (15:55.22)
2018 team champion: Cabell Midland (55 points)
2018 individual champion: Madison Trippett, Parkersburg junior (18:00.41)
2018 team champion: University (43 points)
Reigning Class AA champion Fairmont will battle Bridgeport and Winfield in defense of its state title, as all three teams won their respective regional qualifiers with ease.
The three teams battled at the 2018 state meet, too. Winfield senior Aaron Withrow, who since graduated, won last year's meet in 16:02.05, but Fairmont Senior edged the Generals by a single point to win the team title. Bridgeport finished nine points behind the Polar Bears for third place.
Senior Ethan Kincell will look to lead Fairmont Senior after winning the Big 10 Conference championship by 13 seconds, ahead of runner-up Jackson Jacobs of Bridgeport. Behind Kincell's effort, Fairmont Senior edged Bridgeport for the Big 10 title by six points. Kincell and fellow Polar Bears Logan Zuchelli and Tyler Hayes led a one-two-three sweep at the Region I championship.
At the Region II meet, Bridgeport finished runners successively in second through fifth place, with each of its top five runners among the first nine finishers.
Winfield sophomore Matthew Scheneberg is expected to lead the Generals following his Region IV victory. Scheneberg placed 10th last year as a freshman.
Individually, Doddridge County junior Carter Lipsomb enters as the top returner, finishing third last year in 16:48.47. Lipscomb enters the state meet following wins at the Little Kanawha Conference championship and Region II meet.
In Class A, Doddridge is expected to challenge defending champion Ritchie County.
Ritchie County finished fourth overall at last year's state meet, but the first Class A team with 127 points.
Williamstown junior Ella Hesson enters as the favorite and will look to secure back-to-back individual state titles, while Winfield lists among top teams.
Hesson won the 2018 state meet in 19:25.50, winning by 17 seconds as just one of four runners to break 20 minutes. Winfield won the 2018 team title with 52 points, while Bridgeport finished second with 94. Williamstown finished third in overall standings last year with 98 points, but the Yellowjackets were the first Class A team.
Both Winfield and Williamstown look poised to defend their team titles for their respective classes. Fairmont Senior and Bridgeport will look to join the Generals on the Class AA podium, with St. Marys and Elkins expected among top Class A teams.
For the Generals, freshman Rachel Withrow looks to lead the way after finishing second at the Region IV championship, 18 seconds behind winner Hesson. Beyond Withrow, Miriam Al-Zoubi, Ella Wikel and Alana Roberts also finished among top 10 regional runners. Winfield will look to overcome the loss of one of its top runners in senior Kalei Jordan, a first-team All-State girls soccer player who tore her ACL earlier this soccer season.
Individually, PikeView junior Erin O'Sullivan poses the top challenge to Hesson. O'Sullivan won the Coalfield Conference championship by more than three minutes.
Other top Class AA runners include East Fairmont junior Erykah Christopher, Fairmont Seniors' Carlina Jacquez and Bridgeport sophomore Emerson Grafton, among others.
Expected top Class A runners include Charleston Catholic junior Aubrie Custer.
Cabell Midland will look to defend both its home course and state championship, led by sophomore Cooper Gibson and junior Sam LeRose.
LeRose, who finished sixth at last season's state meet, lists as Midland's top returner, though Gibson finished the Region IV championship as runner-up behind Hurricane's Wyatt Hanshaw. LeRose placed fourth, seven seconds behind Gibson.
University's Josh Edwards enters as the favorite after finishing second in last year's state title race, with a time of 16:07.78. Hanshaw looks to be the top challenger to Edwards, after Hanshaw captured the Mountain State Athletic Conference and regional championships.
Other top All-State contenders include Preston senior Cole Friend, Morgantown senior Jackson Core, Hampshire junior Chris Lucas, University sophomore Rocco DeVincent and Riverside senior Trevor Carson, among others.
Cabell Midland will battle Region I foes Morgantown and University for the team crown. Preston and Hurricane are also expected among top teams.
Parkersburg senior Madison Trippett returns to defend her title against a slew of talented Morgantown and University hopefuls.
Trippett won the 2018 meet with the fifth-best ever girls course time of 18:00.41, winning the individual championship after Ripley standout Tori Starcher did not finish the race. For the second year in a row, the state meet results will not feature Starcher, the reigning West Virginia Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Unfortunately, for Starcher, she wrapped her prep cross country career with the diagnosis of a stress reaction in her left tibia on Sept. 27. Trippett sat idle at the MSAC championship, also with a stress reaction, but returned to win the Region IV meet in 19:50.82.
Beyond Trippett, Morgantown's Lea Hatcher, Athena Young and Irene Riggs pose formidable competition, in addition to University runners Zoe Shetty and Caroline Kirby, as well as Preston County's Allie Martin.
Hatcher, Riggs and Young finished one-two-three at the Region I championship, with Shetty, Kirby and Martin following in succession.
Outside of Region I, top All-State contenders include MSAC champion Emma Jenkins, of Cabell Midland, and Hurricane freshman Audrey Hall, both of Region IV.
University enters as the defending champion, but Morgantown appears ready to knock off the Hawks, as it's expected to be a tight race. The Mohigans secured double-digit point victories over University at the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship and Region I championship in October.
Other top expected teams include Preston, Hurricane and Cabell Midland.