Girls Preview: Tough Clash Looms Between Closely Matched Morgantown and University
The girls AAA race sizes up as a tough clash between two powerful Region I teams. WVRunners #1 Morgantown barely edged WVRunners #2 University 39 to 42 for the Regional title. The State Championship race figures to be just as close with the outcome very much uncertain.
Led by freshman standout Victoria Cooke, young and talented Morgantown boasts four athletes with sub-19:40 times resulting in four of the top ten spots in the current WVRunners individual rankings. Cooke’s 18:58.5 at the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Championships was the second best AAA girls’ time in the State this year. Currently #2 in the WVRunners individual rankings, Cooke also posted a 19:01 at the Octoberfest Invitational in Virginia to beat a strong field of Virginia teams by 24 seconds.
Victoria Cooke (L) racing at the Octoberfest Invitational (Photo by Scott Reid)
Cooke has been paced all year by sophomore and WVRunners #3 Sydney Pineault. Pineault finished second to Cooke at the Octoberfest meet in 19:25. Pineault logged a season best 19:06.7 at the Ohio Valley Athletic Championships and should push Cooke at States. Pineault and Cooke are not the only talented harriers on the Morgantown team. Junior Brynn Harshbarger, who led Morgantown to an impressive early season victory at the Red, White and Blue Invitational in Pennsylvania while clocking a time of 19:12, and sophomore Allison Lynch (19:37) also bring sub-19:40 times to the party. Backed up by freshman Andrea Petit’s 20:06.6, sophomore Rebekh Lafata’s 20:06.7 and freshman Caroline Moore’s 20:51.1, Morgantown brings a young and fast team to Ona.
Morgantown Champs at Red, White and Blue Invitational (Phil Grove photo)
While Morgantown boasts youth and speed across their entire roster, University boasts the WVRunners #1 AAA girl in Amelia Palladino backed by a team that mirrors Morgantown’s talent. Sophomore Palladio posted the girls AAA season best 18:26.5 in winning the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Championships in mid-October. This was one of eight victories on the season for Palladino, clearly establishing her as the girl to beat in the AAA race.
University’s Amelia Palladino at Carlisle (www.stone-photo.com)
Freshman Abbey Harrison established herself as University’s #2 runner and #4 overall in the WVRunners rankings with a series of quality performances as the season progressed culminating in a 19:07.2 at the OVAC meet and a third place finish at Regionals. Senior Katelyn Wheeler and sophomore Emily Lynch joined the University sub-20 minute club with Wheeler posting a 19:28.2 and Lynch a 19:49.0 at the OVAC with Wheeler’s time good for #7 on the WVRunners list. Seniors Deborah Martinelli (20:02.9), Chandler Cottrell (20:23.9) and Alex Phares (20.25.9) bring speed and experience to the remainder of the University team. It could come down to the speed of the #5 finisher on each team for the Championship.
University High School's Harrison, Wheeler, Lynch, Cottrell and Phares (www.stone-photo.com)
Preston enters the State meet as a solid #3 in the WVRunners team rankings. Preston #1 runner, sophomore Kaitlyn Workman has been consistently fast all year and may be peaking at the right time after scoring a 20:01.0 time at Regionals. She also posted a 19:15.5 early in the year at the 3-mile Interstate Classic course in Maryland.
Preston’s Kaitlyn Workman (file photo)
While Preston can’t boast the speed of Morgantown or University they do boast two runners with 2011 personal bests under 20:30 in seniors Rachel Hulett (20:16.0) and Karli Ridenour (20:27.0). Freshman Megan Stemple fills the #5 slot of the team with a personal best of 21:34.0 while junior Kristin Lantz (21:45.0) and sophomore Kirsten Born (21:56.0) round out a talented, sub-22:00 lineup.
Closely matched Hurricane and Cabell-Midland hope to challenge Preston for third place honors. Each brings a sub-20:00 competitor to the race. Hurricane sophomore Tori Dent took first place at Regionals after posting a season best 19:53.0 to claim victory at the Mountain State Athletic Conference Championships. Cabell-Midland junior Jorden Thornton ran her season best 19:22.2 at the Great American Cross Country Festival in early October after finishing in 19:59.0 at the Trinity/Valkyrie meet earlier in the year. The 19:22 time ranked Thornton #6 on the WVRunners rankings. Dent and Thornton don’t run alone and are backed up by talented sub-21:00 runners junior Baylee Summers (20:47.4) of Hurricane and junior Kelsey Dillon (20:29.0) of Cabell-Midland.
Individual All-State honors may be dominated by the girls from Morgantown and University as they currently occupy seven of the top ten spots in the WVRunners individual rankings. Given her string of victories this year, Amelia Palladino should be considered the favorite. Victoria Cooke, Sydney Pineault and Abbey Harrison should all join her in earning All-State honors. Further, in this tightly matched race, any of them could potentially take the victory should Palladino stumble. They may well be joined by Brynn Harshbarger, Katelyn Wheeler and Allison Lynch. Nothing is certain as there is talent throughout the state and several other talented runners will have something to say about All-State honors before the day is over. Jorden Thornton, Parkersburg’s Kaylee Williams and Parkersburg South’s April Kirk should contend and may be joined in earning All-State honors by eastern West Virginia contenders Heather Jenkins of Musselman and Rachel Lipps of Hampshire. Others who have run sub-20:10 or better that could figure into All-State contention include Emily Lynch, Fairmont Senior’s Alyssa Schlerich, Tori Dent, Bridgeport Senior’s Morganne Phillips, Kaitlyn Workman, Deborah Martinelli, North Marion’s Emma Harrison, and Hedgesville’s Brittany Pollard. All are ranked in the top 20 in the WVRunners individual rankings in a highly compact girl’s field.
Bottom line: This figures to be a shoot-out between Morgantown and University. Amelia Palladino and Victoria Cooke lead the way for their talented squads but it may come down to individual passes by all the scoring runners down the stretch. Preston comes in as a solid third place team with Hurricane and Cabell-Midland striving to upset them. No prediction here as Morgantown and University are too closely matched. They’ll have to sort it out on the course.
Race Day at Cabell-Midland
All in all, it should be an exciting morning of AAA racing at Cabell-Midland High School with the closely matched girls’ race featuring rivals Morgantown and University starting at 10:00 AM followed by a high stakes boy’s race featuring cross-state rivals Cabell-Midland and Jefferson at 10:45.
Cabell-Midland High School Cross Country Course Map
The awards ceremony for both AAA races will follow in the Cabell-Midland gymnasium at 11:45. Admission is $8.00 for adults and $7.00 for students.
Classic high school cross-country racing at its best. I recommend you don’t miss either race. See you in Ona on Saturday!