CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Poca track coach John Bonecutter strolled the infield at the University of Charleston Stadium unaware of the feat his boys team had just accomplished at the Class AA Region 4 Championships on Thursday.
As Bonecutter collected awards for the Dots’ top-finishers, he soon realized his small group of 12 athletes tied Herbert Hoover, with 113 points, for the boys team championship. It marked the fourth consecutive Region 4 boys team title for Poca. Nicholas County took the girls team championship, with Hoover second.
“I didn’t even know,” Bonecutter said of the stunning result. “I was down there getting ribbons and the meet director yelled at me and told me, ‘Congratulations.’ I kind of looked at him funny and he said, ‘You tied Hoover.’ That’s pretty good for 12 kids.”
The top three individuals and relay teams from each event automatically qualified to the state meet, with the top four in pole vault and high jump advancing. The next four best marks, except pole vault and high jump, across each of the four regions will also qualify, though those marks were not yet determined at press time.
The Dots lacked numbers but not points as nearly every member of the boys squad contributed to scoring, Bonecutter said. While the co-champion award shocked Bonecutter, the many outstanding results did not.
“What we expected and where we thought kids would finish was pretty close,” Bonecutter said. “The kids really stepped up and ran well today and had a good meet.”
Junior Christian Buckley, the Class AA reigning state champion in the shot put and discus, defended his regional titles by winning each event. Buckley’s first-place discus throw (164 feet, four inches) won by more than 40 feet, while his shot put of 55 feet, seven and one-half inches won by more than nine feet.
The rainy weather presented a challenge at the regional meet as did a recent setback because of a callous on his throwing hand, but Buckley said the season has proved promising thus far.
“I’m really happy with the season so far,” Buckley said. “I think I am starting to peak at the right time. I’m starting to put everything together and it’s going really well.”
In addition to Buckley, Poca freshman Chase Dotson and senior Corey McClure performed strong in throwing events. Dotson placed second in shot and fourth in disc, while McClure claimed second in disc and fourth in shot.
“It was real gratifying to see them to be able to focus,” Dots throwing coach Dana Buckley said of the Poca trio. “That’s the key. Whether it’s good conditions or bad conditions, to be able to focus at the right time.”
Beyond throwing events, Poca excelled in long jump and sprint events. Senior A.J. Keyes finished first in long jump with a distance of 19 feet, 11 inches, while juniors Hayden Webb (19 feet, seven and one-quarter inches) and Hank Larch (19 feet, seven and one-quarter inches) followed to advance to state, too.
In other individual events, Keyes automatically qualified in the 100 with a third-place finish. Poca’s Trevor Landers took third in the 110 hurdles, and William Just finished third in the 300 hurdles.
The Dots won the 4x100 relay with Keyes, Landers, Larch and Webb. Poca’s 4x200, 4x400 and shuttle hurdle relays also earned automatic qualifications to the state meet.
Meanwhile, Hoover’s boys excelled in the distance events. Huskies junior Josh McClung led the effort by winning the 1,600, 3,200 and placing third in the 800. Noah Toops finished third in the 1,600 to also advance.
The Hoover boys squad entered as the favorite, and coach Lance Moore said he’s proud of the team’s first regional crown since the 1970s.
“I’m just tickled to be co-champs of the region, honestly,” Moore said. “I’m not a bit shocked that Poca climbed up there. They have a lot of talent.”
In addition to McClung, Hoover’s Tyler Hagewood secured a win, with a first-place finish in the 110 hurdles. Triston Hager (third, 400) and Garrett Burgess (second, 300 hurdles) also automatically qualified for the state meet. The Huskies won both the 4x800 and shuttle hurdle relay and with a third-place finish in the 4x100 also advanced.
For Sissonville, the team’s hurdles paced the squad. Freshman Chris Cottrell placed second in the 110 hurdles. In the 300 hurdles, Chase Pittman finished fourth, with Cottrell sixth, as each will await regional times across the state to determine advancement. Both hurdlers were members of the Indians’ third-place shuttle hurdle team.
Sissonville senior Duncan McClung won the high jump with a leap of five feet, 10 inches.
Other boys highlights included Scott’s Zack Marcum, who won the 200, 300 hurdles and placed second in the 400.
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ON THE girls side, Hoover performed strong, too, with several key contributors, including sophomore Hannah Schoolcraft who won the long jump and placed third in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 100 hurdles.
“She had a fantastic meet,” Moore said of Schoolcraft. “The girls, it was kind of a collective effort. They chipped away in every event they could.”
Huskies junior Emilee Henry won the 400, while teammate Bailey Aab captured the high jump, and sophomore Taylor Marsh won the pole vault. Hoover’s 4x800 also advanced with a third-place showing, as did Jessica Welch, who placed third in the shot put.
Sissonville senior Grace Montgomery, ranked first in the state for the 300 hurdles, won her signature event in 50.58 seconds. Indians thrower Rachel Minney, a senior, placed third in the discus to qualify for the state meet. Sissonville’s 4x100, 4x200 and shuttle hurdle relays also advanced.
Other girls highlights included Wayne’s Kylie Rutherford, an East Tennessee State commit, who swept the distance events with wins in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. Rutherford also ran on Wayne’s second-place 4x400 relay.