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Torrence Walker Wheeling Park track

Wheeling Park sprinter Torrence Walker has been clocked at 21.23 seconds in the 200-meter dash, faster than James Jett’s Class AAA state-meet record of 21.39 set in 1989.

The state track meet, returning this week after a two-year absence induced by COVID-19, already guarantees star power, owing to the presence of three all-time state record holders.

But fans just might get a little more for their money, as three of the six divisions could come down to the wire.

The boys Class A and AA meets and the girls AAA division figure to be highly competitive when the top track athletes in West Virginia descend upon University of Charleston Stadium, with champions being crowned on three straight days beginning with Thursday’s completion of the Class A boys and girls meets. Four of the 32 Class A events were held Wednesday evening to lighten the load for sprinters and distance runners. Field events are set to start at 11 a.m. Thursday, with running events at 11:45. That schedule will be followed Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Normally a two-day weekend event, the state meet has been spread over four days this year due to lingering COVID protocols, attempting to reduce the number of competitors instead of gathering them at UC Stadium all at once. Thus, each classification gets what amounts to a full day on display, and several athletes figure to make good use of that attention.

All eyes should be on Wheeling Park sprinter Torrence Walker and University distance runner Josh Edwards in the boys Class AAA meet Friday and Saturday, and Winfield pole vaulter Dianna Goodman in the girls AA meet on Friday. All three have broken state records this season.

A tremendous talent, Walker has already run times this season of 10.43 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 21.23 in the 200. The former stands as the top 100 time ever run by a West Virginia prep athlete and is faster than the existing Class AAA state meet mark of 10.59 seconds held by Derrick Johnson of Capital since 2000. The latter time is better than the state meet mark of 21.39 turned in 32 years ago by James Jett, the former Jefferson flash who ran in the Olympics and played nine seasons in the NFL.

Edwards, a junior, will take aim at a pair of AAA state meet records held by Jacob Burcham, the former Cabell Midland distance ace who was recruited to run at Oklahoma. Edwards has been clocked this season at 4:05.59 in the 1,600 and 8:49.04 in the 3,200. Burcham’s respective records in those events are 4:08.80 and 8:57.73.

Goodman, meanwhile, has vaulted her way into the record books by clearing 12 feet, 5 inches this season — the highest ever by a state high school female, making her just one of three 12-foot vaulters ever in West Virginia, joining Washington’s Lauren Zaglifa (12-4 in 2017) and Capital’s Jennifer Hansen (12-3 in 2004). Goodman signed with the track program at Marshall on Tuesday.

Admission each day is $10 for adults and $7 for students. Here’s a look at what’s happening in each division.

Girls Class A (Thursday)

Williamstown is fully expected to run away with a second straight title, defending the crown it won in 2019 (COVID canceled the 2020 meet). In its state meet projections, had the Yellowjackets more than doubling their closest competitor, Ritchie County, by a 144-63 count. Williamstown is strong in the relays, holding the No. 1 time in four of the five — all but the shuttle hurdles, in which it has no entry.

Ritchie’s Olivia Cress is a threat to score 40 points herself, as she owns the state’s top Class A marks this season in the 100 dash (13.01), 300 hurdles (46.54), high jump (5-4) and long jump (16-101/4). Magnolia’s Mady Winters could pull off a double in the shot (44-0) and discus (121-6).

Boys Class A (Thursday)

Perhaps the closest meet of the six to be contested this week. RunWV projects Magnolia and Ritchie to hit the finish line with 98 points each and Doddridge County with 97.

Magnolia sprinter Jason Beisel holds the state’s No. 1 times in the 200 (22.82) and 400 (50.52) and is third-best in the 100. Ritchie’s Gus Morrison leads the pack in the 110 high hurdles (15.15), 300 intermediate hurdles (40.94) and long jump (21-61/4). Reese Burnside of Doddridge has cleared 15-6 in the pole vault, holds the No. 2 effort in the 100 hurdles and long jump and will likely run in the 4x100 relay.

Girls AA (Friday)

Winfield, the defending champion, is another heavy favorite, led by speedy Allie Germann and distance runner Rachael Withrow, who might combine for seven individual wins.

Germann is No. 1 in AA this year in the 100 (12.69), 200 (26.49) and long jump (17-101/2) and No. 2 in the 400. Withrow holds the season’s top times in the 800 (2:26.20), 1,600 (5:13.82) and 3,200 (11:08.81).

Point Pleasant, a distant second in the RunWV projections, leans on weight thrower Addy Cottrill (39-61/2 in the shot, 136-7 discus) and versatile Elicia Wood, who has the state’s No. 1 efforts in the 100 hurdles (16.00) and high jump (5-4) and is second in the 300 hurdles.

Boys AA (Friday)

Another close call, as any of the top four teams could make a run for the title. According to RunWV, Oak Glen (80) is the favorite, followed by Point Pleasant (76), defending champion Winfield (70) and Keyser (64).

Oak Glen relies on sprinter Tristan Lawson, who holds the No. 2 times in the 100 and 200 and runs on the Golden Bears’ 4x100 and 4x200 teams that lead the state. He’ll be matched with Wayne’s Ethan Bowens, who owns the top AA times in all three sprints — the 100 (10.93), 200 (22.57) and 400 (51.06).

Point Pleasant is expected to score in as many as 11 events, with Cody Schultz leading entries in the discus at 159-1. Winfield hurdler Shaun Webb has the fastest times in the high hurdles (15.80) and intermediates (41.75) and teammate Matthew Scheneberg stands No. 2 in the 800 and third-best in the 1,600 and 3,200.

Girls AAA (Saturday)

Morgantown, Wheeling Park and Jefferson have been tightly bunched all year in the power rankings, and the state meet should be no different. RunWV has 94 points for Morgantown, 89 for Jefferson and 77 for Park.

To wit: Of the state’s top three times this season in the three individual sprints (100, 200, 300), those teams have accounted for eight of the nine spots, so they may cannibalize each other’s chances in many events. In the 4x100, the top three times belong to Jefferson, Morgantown and Park. However, none has a top-ranked athlete in any field event, so points accrued there could make a difference.

Morgantown’s Irene Riggs holds the No. 1 times in the 1,600 and 3,200 and is second in the 800 to Mohigans teammate Lea Hatcher, who is also third in the 1,600. In addition, Morgantown tops entries in the 4x400 and 4x800. Wheeling Park has the fastest entry times in shuttles and with Marlee Porter in the 300 hurdles (46.01). Jefferson owns the No. 1 times in the 4x100, 4x200 and the open 200 with Hailey Dillow.

Hurricane sophomore Lily Haught could contend for a hurdles double. She holds the top time in the 100 highs (14.93) and is second to Porter in the 300 lows. Huntington weight throwers Markayla Moore (35-101/2 shot put) and Ravyn Goodson (115-0 discus) are other top threats.

Boys AAA (Saturday)

Wheeling Park, led by Walker and freshman Jarrae Hawkins, might score enough points in sprint events alone to contend. Parkersburg is considered the most-likely candidate to threaten the Patriots.

Walker enters the state meet with the No. 1 times in the 100, 200 and 400 (49.47), which is becoming a rarity. If he sweeps all three, it will mark the first time that’s been done in Class AAA since Dante Price of Jefferson in 2013. In the six state meets since then, there have been three different sprint winners four times and two different winners twice. Hawkins holds the second-best time statewide in the 100, third-best in the 200 and helps Park’s No. 1-ranked 4x100 team.

Jefferson’s Isaiah Fritts could break up some of that Park domination in the sprints, as he’s second to Walker in the 200 and 400 and runs on the Cougars’ top-ranked 4x200 squad.

Parkersburg should score well in the shot put, as Justin Waybright (51-4) and Charlie Baumann (48-1) rank 1-2 there. Waybright has the No. 2 mark in the discus and hurdler Aaron Kupfner owns the fastest time in the 110 highs (14.65) and runs second to Huntington’s Noah Waynick in the 300 intermediates.

Riverside hurdler Carson Casto has beaten Kupfner in the highs once this season and anchors the Warriors’ No. 1 shuttles team (58.71).

Washington pole vaulter Frank Amore bids to become just the third member of the state’s 16-foot club, as he’s already cleared 16-5 this season. Parkersburg’s Casey Freed owns the record vault of 17-0 set in 1995 and Capital’s Tristan Slater went 16-0 in 2016.

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

Preps Sports Reporter