PHS boys look to make history at state track meet

CHARLESTON – The year was 1965.

The war in Vietnam continued to worsen, the latest craze in kids toys was the Super Ball and the Skate Board and fashions changed as women’s skirts got shorter and men’s hair grew longer.

In the Mid-Ohio Valley Rod O’Donnell was completing his junior year at Belpre High School and the Big Reds from Parkersburg High brought home the schools’ fifth-ever boys’ state track and field championship.

Few, if any, believed at that moment that would be the program’s last state title in the sport or that O’Donnell, who would go on to coach at Marshall University, return to the MOV to take over the reigns of the program he once competed against and lead them to the threshold of a state crown.

“I can vividly remember that year,” O’Donnell explained following his team’s victory over crosstown rival Parkersburg South in the Region One championship held at the Erickson All-Sports Facility. “I knew a lot of those guys and I’m still friends with many of them.”

Now, it is O’Donnell’s team that has a chance to add yet another page to the rich tradition which is PHS sports as the Big Reds challenge returning state champion Jefferson at the 100th edition of the W.Va. State Track and Field Championships at the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field.

“It would be something that nobody will ever forget,” said O’Donnell. “PHS has a lot of tradition. It would be very, very appropriate.”

But, it also won’t be an easy accomplishment.

“They (the athletes) have to do what they’ve done all season. They must be focused. Totally focused in what they need to do. I’m counting on the guys who have been there before to take care of the guys that haven’t.”

Several of those are seniors Chandler Hamilton, Landon Miller and Evan Rhodes and junior Nic Cheuvront.

Hamilton is the pre-meet favorite to win the 100 and 200 meter dashes while Miller (110 HH) and Rhodes (300 IM) and Cheuvront (800) are among the favorites in their events.

“We’re talking about a good quality team that we are taking to Charleston, but not quantity,” continued the coach. “Our quality is going to have to show up and then we have got to hope that the rest of the teams can take away from Jefferson’s quantity.”

Teams like Hedgesville, Washington, Martinsburg, Huntington, Winfield and Parkersburg South.

“They’ve all been running well. Hedgesville, Washington and Martinsburg all ran well against Jefferson in their regional and Huntington and Winfield tied for their regional championship.

“Then, there is Parkersburg South. They have some tremendous field event kids and have been getting better and better on the track every week.”

But, so have the Big Reds.

In the girls’ division Hurricane is expected to unseat Buckhannon-Upshur for the team title with Parkersburg predicted to finish seventh, Ripley 17th and Parkersburg South 19th.

Other locals to keep an eye out for this weekend include Parkersburg South’s Dylon Rippeto (shot put, discus), Evan DeGraef (high jump), Anthony Bibbs (long jump), and Kasey Williams (100, 200), Ripley’s Zane Griffith (pole vault), Molli Cunningham (300 LH), and Laurel Miller (high jump) and Parkersburg’s Dan Fox (long jump), Sarah Bever (100 HH, 300 LH, high jump) and Whitney McAtee (shot put, discus).

Action begins at 2 p.m. today with the 4 by 800 meter relays. Saturday’s running events begin at 10 a.m. with the 400 meter dash.