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PREP TRACK: Capital’s Panger looks to finish junior year at her peak

Capital’s Peyton Panger crosses the finish line at a cross country meet last fall. Panger, a junior, will be among the favorites in several distance events at Friday’s Class AAA Region 3 meet today at UC Stadium.



CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Capital junior runner Peyton Panger etched her name in the conference meet record books in her most recent competition, but with her next performance, she will look to break those marks as she joins Class AAA athletes statewide competing in regional championships on Friday.

Panger broke meet records in the 1,600-meter run and 3,200 at the Mountain State Athletic Conference Track and Field Championship, held May 9. As Panger continues to forge ahead with faster times, she’ll be among the many athletes and teams competing at the Class AAA Region 3 meet at the University of Charleston Stadium on Friday. Class AAA Region 4 athletes will compete at Point Pleasant on Friday.

“It felt really good to do so well at conferences,” Panger said of her record run. “Two records is a feat for anybody, and I’m just really excited to go into the finish of my season.”

At the MSACs, Panger clocked a time of 5:00.75 for the 1,600 meters, eight seconds faster than the previous record, and she finished the 3,200 in 11:18.87, breaking the former record by more than 12 seconds.

For the Region 3 meet, Panger said she has greater goals in mind.

“Qualifying (for state) is certainly a must, but I would like to try and break five minutes in the mile (1,600 meters), because I am on track to do so, and it’s been one of my season-long goals,” she said.

The top three individuals or relays from each event will automatically qualify for the state meet, with the top four in high jump and pole vault advancing. The next four best marks (next three best for high jump and pole vault) across each of the four regions will qualify, too.

Ranked second statewide for AAA in both the mile and two-mile and fourth for the 800, Panger is expected to advance to the state meet in each of her three events.

Greenbrier East enters as the defending girls regional champions and will battle Ripley for the team championship.

In Region 3 boys competition, GW senior Matt Brafford will lead the 10th-ranked Patriots against rival Capital, among other teams.

Brafford, a University of Oklahoma commit, ranks seventh statewide in both the 1600 and 3200, but said his best times lie ahead.

“My coach and I have really just been talking about what needs to be done, where the time needs to be shed off,” he said, “and basically, we’re just going to try to take (time) off each lap, and each race has its own technique. We’re going to try to perfect that technique through the next couple races, make sure everything is in perfect position for the state meet.”

In addition to Brafford, GW’s Will Walker lists among the state’s top 10 in two events, ranking in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles. Patriots Nick Peyette and Trevor Patton will look to score points in the shot put.

For Capital, senior Naquay Little will lead the Cougars in sprint events, while Geandra Jones, Marshall Sharp and Michael Ruhnke handle the middle distance and distance events. Tristan Slater, the pole vault defending state champion, leads AAA once again and will look to build on his own MSAC record-setting performance.

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ON THE other side of the Kanawha Valley, Region 4 athletes will compete at Point Pleasant, with a significant matchup between top-ranked Hurricane and No. 3 Winfield on the girls side.

The Generals defeated the Redskins by 15 points for the MSAC title behind the strength of their relays and balance across the list of running and field events.

“We feel we’re really strong with our relays,” Winfield coach David Bailey said. “We’ve got some field event people we feel good with: pole vault; high jump; and I’ve got some individuals.”

Winfield boasts top-10 ranked individuals in eight different events, including 800 defending state champion Barkley Castro, with each of its five relays ranked, too.

As the Generals lead with balance, so do the Redskins and with plenty of depth, too. Hurricane lists top-10 individuals in 10 different events, with four of five relays ranked. Of the ranked individuals, Anna Gordon (400, 800), Tori Dent (800; 1,600; 3,200), Audrey Barber (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Lauren London (pole vault, long jump) and Abby Watson (shot put, discus) each list among the state’s best in multiple events.

St. Albans, ranked 10th in girls AAA, is led by junior Anacia Hines, listed top-three in the 100, 200 and 100 hurdles, will look to qualify for the state meet in each of her three events in back-to-back seasons.

Unranked Cabell Midland lists each of its five relays among the state’s top 10, with sophomore Jakeya Perrin, a top-10 runner in the 100 and 400.

In boys events, fifth-ranked Huntington and No. 6 Winfield are expected to contend for the team championship, with eighth-ranked Spring Valley not far behind.

Christian Smith leads the Generals effort as he ranks statewide in three events: high jump (first), pole vault (fourth) and long jump (sixth). State champion wrestler Bryce Humphreys ranks in multiple events, too, in the 200 and 400.

Hurricane enters with a balanced squad as seven individuals rank among the state’s top 10 in their respective events, with two relays also ranked.

Other top athletes to watch include Spring Valley junior Jacob Kilgore, ranked first in the state for the 400 and 800, and Point Pleasant’s Tannor Hill and Jacob Lomax, of St. Albans, both listed in the shot put and discus.

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