High school cross country opens today

PARKERSBURG – Cross country programs throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley will be in action today as the season begins bright and early in both Pleasants County and in Washington County.

St. Marys will be the host for the 29th annual Autumn Classic at Abicht’s Landing, which gets underway with the high school girls race at 9 a.m.

More than a dozen and a half teams are expected to comprise the field and that includes the Blue Devils of head coach Glenda Cottrill as well as other area schools in Ripley, Calhoun County, Doddridge County, Wirt County, Tyler Consolidated and Paden City.

A new team champion will be crowned at the Autumn Classic for the girls since Williamstown is joining fellow area squads Ravenswood and Magnolia at today’s 10 a.m. start for the Elizabeth S. Broughton Memorial Invitational in Marietta. The Bridgeport boys, who were led by last year’s champion and then senior Abe Merinar, will be back to try and defend their team title in Pleasants County.

Both Parkersburg and Parkersburg South will start their season a little later in the day when the two Class AAA teams compete at 8 p.m. in the Preston Knight Relays.

Doddridge County head coach Craig Kellar is anxious to get the season started. Sophomores Megan Carder and Savanah Ferguson along with junior Chelsey Randolph all had top 20 finishes at the Autumn Classic a year ago.

Bulldog sophomore Trey Heaster was 17th last year, but Kellar is excited to have sophomore Hunter Riffle and senior Lane Eddy competing.

“He’s trying to balance it,” Kellar said of the Class A 3200 meter state champion Riffle, who is also playing football. Eddy was on the Bulldogs’ state tournament team two years ago, but missed his junior campaign because of injury.

The top local returning finisher from last year’s Autumn Classic for the boys is Wirt County’s Glenn McMillan, who placed eighth as an 11th-grader.

“It is his last go-around and after his 1600 victory (at state) in track he was really lit up and ran the entire summer,” said Tiger head coach Lacey Mills. “He came into the season in better shape than he ever has in the past and has just been doing a really good job.”

Coach Mills, who will not have her full squad of runners on hand today, added “a couple girls (Mary Kerby, Emily Pelfrey) really came on this summer and I’m looking forward to how they run in their first meet.”

Calhoun County head coach Melinda Fitzwater doesn’t have enough to field a girls team, but her boys roster features more than a dozen runners.

“I think they will surprise some people. We haven’t had a full team for a long time,” said Fitzwater, who is looking for solid efforts from the likes of Lucas Wilson, Ben Frederick, Brad Lacy and Case Carter.

Ravenswood head coach Bryan Canterbury is glad to have senior Hailey Miller back in the fold. A year ago, she was runner-up at the Autumn Classic, but during this past basketball season she suffered a knee injury and her cross country season at the time was in doubt.

“I thought we’d try something different this year,” Canterbury said of competing in Marietta. “We’ve been to the Autumn Classic the past two years.”

Canterbury added of Miller, “I didn’t anticipate her running at all early in the year. She’s a strong determined competitor. She got the full-go last week (from the doctor) and she’s running with a brace. She’s not 100 percent, but she’s made a tremendous recovery.”