Wesleyan Still Rules WVIAC Track Meet

The Wheeling Jesuit University track team won more than its share of battles as the West Virginia Conference track meet concluded Friday at the Cardinals' oval.

But West Virginia Wesleyan won the war.

Coach Jesse Skiles' deep and talented Bobcats swept the WVC men's and women's team titles for the third straight year.

The women ran away from the field, piling up 232 points to easily outdistance Wheeling Jesuit (122) and Charleston (119).

Skiles' men had to fight off a spirited challenge from the Cardinals but took top honors with 194 points, leaving Wheeling Jesuit to settle for second place at 170. Concord was a distant third with 115.

Although her Cardinals finished second behind Wesleyan, former Bellaire High sprint star Kayla Johnson was the star of the women's show.

The junior standout swept the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes, ran a dazzling anchor leg on WJU's victorious 4x400 relay team and was second in both the long jump and triple jump.

After the meet, she was named the conference women's MVP and honored as the WVC Female Track Athlete of the Year.

''Kayla deserves all the accolades she receives,'' said WJU head coach Trent Huntsinger. ''It has nothing to do with luck.

''(Assistant coach) Hilary (Huntsinger) has done an awesome job of working with Kayla but for her to progress as far as she has in the last three years is a credit to her work ethic.''

Johnson's time of 55.97 seconds in the 400-meter dash shaved nearly two full seconds off a WVC meet record that had stood for more than a decade and was more than six-tenths of a second under the provisional qualifying cutoff for the NCAA Division II meet.

''Her time is coming to be an All-American,'' said Huntsinger, ''and it could be this year. She can run in the low 55s and that's All-America territory.''

Huntsinger's men also collected some post-meet hardware.

Sprinter Andre Walcott was the WVC Male Rookie of the Year while Aaron Rosier — who won the decathlon and pole vault, ran a leg on the 4x400 championship team and placed in the high jump, long jump, triple jump, javelin and both hurdle events — was named conference men's MVP.

''That was one of the greatest individual performances I've ever seen at this meet,'' marveled Skiles. ''That Rosier kid was incredible.''

Although he was disappointed to see his men and women finish second again behind the Wesleyan juggernaut, Huntsinger believes the gap is closing — especially on the men's side.

''On the whole, I thought our kids ran real well,'' he said. ''We made a couple of mistakes at crucial times that hurt us but we showed a lot of heart.

''We only lose 14 points to graduation on the men's side. On the women's side, it's more of a numbers game. We need to get more girls in here.

''We won a lot of events but when you're scoring six places, there are 21 other points up for grabs in each event besides the 10 for first place. Those add up pretty quickly.''

The veteran Skiles, who was named WVC Men's and Women's Track Coach of the Year after racking up league titles Nos. 35 and 36 for his career, declined to call the Bobcats' run a dynasty.

''The women have won 14 of the last 16 and our men have won three straight but each one is special in its own right,'' said Skiles, who is wrapping up his 14th season at Wesleyan.

''It's really all about the kids. They understand that the person fighting for sixth place is just as important as the one fighting for first and they don't quit.

''That really came into play for our men at this meet. We only won four of the 21 events so those third, fourth and fifth-place finishes were key.''

Meet Notes

? In addition to Johnson, three other former OVAC standouts won WVC titles. Martins Ferry's Katrina Jones won the women's 1500 meter run for Alderson-Broaddus. Buckeye Local's Ben Bolock, also running for Alderson-Broaddus, was the 10,000 meter champion. Tyler Consolidated's Matt Wright won the high jump for West Liberty.

? Wesleyan's Sarah Van Horn was the WVC Women's Rookie of the Year while Charleston's Candace Swann was the Women's Field Athlete of the Year.

? Concord's John Paul Blankenship was the WVC Men's Field Athlete of the Year while Wesleyan's Rico Greenhowe was the Track Athlete of the Year.

? Nine WVC meet records were shattered during the two-day event and six athletes established NCAA provisional qualifying marks.