Jefferson’s Ryan Graf and Abby Colbert Capture Individual Titles
Individual Champions Abby Colbert and Ryan Graf - Rollie Jacobs Photo
On a crisp fall day with foul weather closing fast, the Jefferson boys and Hampshire girls did what was expected in seizing their respective Regional Championship titles on Thursday in Elkins, West Virginia. Both races featured the same top team finishers as Jefferson, Hampshire and Musselman captured the top three spots in each race albeit in different order. Jefferson’s freshman Abby Colbert and senior Ryan Graf tackled the demanding Davis & Elkins College course and raced to individual victories over Hampshire’s Ashleigh Martin and Jefferson’s Andrew Milliron as the meet finished just ahead of the storm.
In the first race of the day, Jefferson’s Milliron jumped out to an early lead over teammate Graf but was overtaken on the steep hills in the middle section of the course.
Andrew Milliron and Ryan Graf Lead the Pack Early - Rollie Jacobs Photo
Graf opened up a 30 second lead over the remainder of the race and finished in 17:24.52. Milliron finished strong in 17:58.13 securing second place over Austin Hamrick (18:06.6) representing host team Elkins. Hampshire’s Casey Feezle continued his impressive late season surge by capturing fourth with a time of 18:14.72 over Musselman’s speedy Shane Rigsby (18:20.65). Jefferson’s Jackson Jacobs passed three runners after the two-mile mark to finish 6th in 18:27.03. He was followed closely by steady teammate Zach Wiberg (7th; 18:32.59). Hedgesville’s Matt Taylor (18:43.95) used a late sprint to overtake Jefferson’s Rhett Zillinger (9th; 18:44.33) for eighth by less than a half second. Hampshire’s Austin Jenner raced home in just over 19 minutes (19:02.57) to take tenth and the final All-Region spot.
With its top five runners all achieving All-Region honors and scoring 25 points, Jefferson easily secured the Boys’ Region II Championship. The improving Hampshire squad outpaced Musselman 64 points to 84 points for second with each team also qualifying for the West Virginia State Championships. In addition to the runners on the Jefferson, Hampshire and Musselman boys’ teams, Elkins’ Austin Hamrick and Hedgesville’s Matt Taylor also earned invitations to the State Championships by virtue of their top ten finishes.
Boys All-Region II Runners - Rollie Jacobs Photo
In the Girl’s race, it was all Abby Colbert. Pressed early by Hedgesville’s Fallon Stone, Jefferson’s Colbert raced away on the most difficult section of the course and emerged from the hills with a solid lead over Hampshire’s charging Ashleigh Martin. Colbert appeared to be in distress as she raced toward the two-mile mark but recovered and maintained her lead.
Abby Colbert - Girls Region II Individual Champion- Rollie Jacobs Photo
The remaining positions changed hands multiple times during the race as the girls fought for position and potential qualification for States. In the end it was Colbert finishing strong and seizing the Regional Champion title with a time of 20:53.79. Martin fought hard and pressed Colbert as she finished 12 seconds back in 21:05.56 and nearly a minute ahead of third place finisher, freshman teammate Morgan Roach (22:01.56). It was a scramble for the remaining positions with the next six runners finishing within 18 seconds of each other. Hampshire’s Rachel Lipps followed teammates Martin and Roach to the line in fourth with a time of 22:30.44. Their impressive 2-3-4 finish would prove decisive in the team competition. Musselman claimed the next two spots with Heather Jenkins (22:35.70) just nipping teammate Antonia Dunnigan (22:36.10). Jefferson’s Anya Wallace sprinted home with a strong 22:42.89 to take the seventh position followed by Buckhannon-Upshur’s Gillian Ross (8th; 22:45.79) and Hedgesville’s Courtney Layhew (9th; 22:48.23). Buckhannon-Upshur freshman Laura Dean captured a second State Qualifying spot, racing home in in just under 23 minutes (22:59.61) to seize the final All-Region honors finish.
Girls All-Region II Runners - Rollie Jacobs Photo
The favored Hampshire girls used their deep line-up with three runners in the top four to capture the Regional Championships with an impressive 35 points. Musselman held off a determined Jefferson squad by a much closer than expected seven points, 61 to 68. For Hampshire this will be the sixth straight year the girls’ team has qualified for the State Championships. Jefferson returns after a two year hiatus after winning the State title in 2009. For the Musselman girls, this will be their first team qualification for the State Championships since at least 1996. In addition to the girls on the Hampshire, Musselman and Jefferson squads, Buckhannon-Upshur’s Gillian Ross and Laura Dean and Hedgesville’s Courtney Layhew also earned a trip to the State finals.
The Hampshire Girls Powered Their Way to Victory - Rollie Jacobs Photo
With the West Virginia State Championships less than a week away, the teams and runners must now focus on the task ahead. No doubt the entries from all the regions will be strong and the task challenging as the three Eastern Panhandle teams travel across the state for the Championships at Cabell-Midland High School in Ona, WV on Saturday. It should be a great meet once again. Hope to see you there!