Ready to go the distance
Scott distance runner Will Shaffer isn't trying to win a particular event in this year's state meet. His goals reach far beyond that.
Instead, the junior is chasing his own personal triple crown - wins in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs, and he tuned up for that quest Friday night at the BB&T Classic at Laidley Field. The event was still in progress at press time.
Shaffer participated only in the 400 and 800 Friday night, but said he'll be running in all three of his main events at next week's Gazette Relays.
While lofty, Shaffer's aspirations aren't really far-fetched considering he owns the top time in each event in Class AA statewide, according to runwv.com. All this after winning the 3,200 in last year's state meet and finishing third in the 800 and 1,600.
The Skyhawks are also No. 5 in the Class AA power ratings on the site.
Scott coach Nick Bias made no bones about where his and Shaffer's visions lie for the end of the season.
"That was our goal from the offset this year, to win the triple crown, and he's kind of kept that mindset," Bias said. "Every week we have a short-term goal - let's hit this race, go after this time, beat this person - and every week we're moving closer and closer to our goal, which is the state meet."
Bias said Shaffer is the unquestioned leader of the Skyhawks and is the biggest reason for Scott's high ranking.
"That's mainly due to Will Shaffer," Bias said. "He's obviously ranked first in 32, 16 and eight. He's having a phenomenal year and he's our catalyst. He stopped playing basketball to focus on running and he's really reaping the benefits. He's definitely our leader."
Shaffer has already tasted success once during the school year, finishing second at the state cross country meet. He agreed with his coach, saying an open winter gave him enough time to better prepare for the track season.
"I did a lot of winter training and I wasn't able to do that last year," Shaffer said. "I think that base has helped me a lot. I've been able to put some speed on top of that this season and I've been able to go out there and run some fast times."
Fast times indeed. Shaffer has improved on all of his times from last year's state meet and has already notched an impressive victory in the 1,600 at the Beach Run Invitational April 7 in Myrtle Beach, N.C.
That meet included 40 teams from 10 states, and his winning time of 4:26.35 ranks only behind Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham (4:11.5) and Winfield's Joseph Kirtner (4:22.48) as the fastest in the state this year.
"That helped his confidence out a lot," Bias said. "Knowing that he can go out of state and be successful was huge."
Getting a taste of winning as a sophomore in last year's state meet while taking third in two other events made Shaffer even more hungry heading into this year. Bias said those finishes and that motivation have set up Shaffer for a realistic run at all three titles this year.
"I tell him it's kind of like building blocks," Bias said. "Every season you're building the next step. You're getting better and it's more base and more speed and he's bought into the system."
As it turns out, he's bought in wholeheartedly.
"That's what I'm striving to go for, winning the eight, 16 and 32," Shaffer said. "It's hard to predict what I'm going to have to run. It's hard to predict in running how good people are going to get because you taper a lot toward the state meet and then come out and run a fast time. I'm going to try my best out there and see what I can do. I think I have a pretty good shot."
Heading into Friday's BB&T Classic, meet director Sean Wheeler said he was expecting the biggest field in the event's history.
After the turnout, his expectations were undoubtedly exceeded.
Close to 40 schools showed up to compete as the Classic stretched through Friday night, past midnight and into early Saturday morning.
Winfield rewrote several BB&T Classic records, and clung to a narrow lead in both the boys and girls standings at press time. Hurricane was making it a Putnam County kind of night as the Redskins sat in second place in girls and third place in boys.
For the Generals on the boys side, Winfield's Sam Pyles set a meet mark in the 400-meter run (50.83 seconds), Luke Martin set a meet best in the 300 hurdles (40.12 seconds) and Winfield's 4x800 relay team finished in 8:17.5, also a meet record. Joe Kirtner also posted a record time with a 9:37.87 finish in the 3,200.
Winfield didn't lose any steam on the girls side as the 4x100 and 4x200 relay squads came in at 50.22 seconds and 1:47.88 respectively, both new meet records.
Several other meet records were set during the course of the evening including a few by local competitors.
St. Albans' Anacia Hines set new marks in the 100 (12.49 seconds) and the 100 hurdles (15.62) while Adrian Cunningham of George Washington also bested a meet mark in finishing the 300 hurdles in 47.56 seconds to go with a win in the 200. Hurricane's Tori Dent picked up a meet record with a time of 2:20.1 in the 800 plus a win in the 400. Bethan Drury of St. Albans threw the discus a meet-record 126 feet, 5 inches in addition to winning the shot put.
On the boys side, Hurricane's A.J. White set a meet record with a discus throw of 165 feet, 2 inches and also claimed a win with a 49-111/2 shot put. Dylan Rich of Buffalo also notched a meet record with a time of 1:57.8 in the 800 while Charleston Catholic's Keiffer Reed recorded a pole vault jump of 14 feet, also a meet best.
Other local winners included Hurricane's Steven Handley (boys 100) and Nitro's Jordan Tate (girls high jump).
Marietta (Ohio) was in second place in the boys competition with 63.5 points, and trailed the Generals by just 7.5. Hurricane (62), Parkersburg (62) and Huntington (33) rounded out the top five with three events left to be scored.
Winfield (72) held a 3-point advantage over the Redskins in the girls competition, with Marietta (50), Capital (42), and St. Albans (40) just behind.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.