One of the longest state track meets in history wasn’t short on drama.
Team titles in four of the six divisions weren’t decided until the last event on Saturday, and one other nearly went down to the wire as the 105th state meet wrapped up on a sunny, mid-80-degree day at University of Charleston Stadium.
Winfield pulled off its second daily double in three years, edging Bridgeport by three points for the Class AA girls championship and coming from behind in the last few events to pass Fairmont Senior in the boys meet.
In AAA boys, Spring Mills settled a three-way battle by winning the meet-ending 4x400-meter relay and winding up with 71 points to edge Wheeling Park (68) and Cabell Midland (63) for its first-ever track title. In AAA girls, Ripley set a record in the 4x400 to close out an 82-80 decision over hard-luck Wheeling Park. It was one of 13 meet marks to fall on Saturday.
In Class A boys, Doddridge County held off hard-charging Magnolia 84.3-82. In girls Class A, the only one-sided meet of the entire weekend, Williamstown emerged with a 108.5-52 cushion over runner-up Ritchie County.
The meet ended a couple of hours past its normal time frame owing to a weather delay of four hours, 16 minutes on Friday that pushed several events onto Saturday’s card. Competition on Friday ended about 15 minutes past midnight.
In fact, the AA boys pole vault was still going on more than an hour after all the track events had concluded Saturday, but Winfield had enough of a lead on Fairmont Senior that it didn’t change the championship. The final margin was 80-62.
Aaron Withrow, Winfield’s senior distance runner and a University of Kentucky recruit, accounted for four first-place finishes for a second straight year, winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and contributing a leg on the victorious 4x400 relay that solidified the team crown. Withrow missed a 26-year-old meet record in the 1,600 by one-hundredth of a second.
“I was hoping to get that record, and that’s a heartbreaker,’’ Withrow said, “but obviously, the most important thing is getting points for the team, what I need to do to help the team.
“The memories come from winning a state title. That stays with you forever. Records can be broken, but you never forget winning a state title with your teammates.’’
Greg Moore ran the anchor leg in Winfield’s 4x400 triumph to lock up the program’s ninth boys title since 1997.
In AA girls, Winfield went back and forth all day with Bridgeport, finishing with a 124-121 margin. The Indians took the 4x400 to end the meet, beating the Generals by .16 of a second, but it wasn’t enough to overtake them.
Sophomore Baylee Adkins, who ran the anchor leg on Winfield’s 4x400, nearly came from way back on the home stretch but was nosed out at the finish line. She earlier won the 800 with a time of 2:14.78 and ran third in the 400.
She said running for a team title and for her teammates in her final events was just as inspiring as running for her own cause.
“Back there [in the 800], I was thinking about them when I was running,’’ Adkins said, “because they were all cheering when I went by and it was really close with the scores for the teams. I would have liked it if it was a bigger gap, but I think it give you a little bit more adrenaline when they’re so close.’’
The Generals got a late boost when Caroline Cartwright matched her season-best of 5-0 to place third in a crowded high-jump field.
Junior Tori Starcher again came through for Ripley in its quest to repeat as AAA girls champion. She took the baton on the anchor leg of the 4x400 and didn’t disappoint, closing out a meet-record time of 4:01.64.
It gave Starcher 12 wins in 12 state-meet events over her three seasons.
“It’s totally unreal,’’ Starcher said. “My team just worked so hard. Obviously, I had to work hard myself to produce points for my team, but being able to repeat as state champion is totally amazing. It’s awesome for Ripley because it’s such a small town.’’
Starcher, a nationally known runner who set a record in winning the girls high school mile at the prestigious Penn Relays this year, realized how close the margin was over Wheeling Park as she ran the 4x400. The Patriots placed third in the final event, but had they finished second, the teams would have ended in a tie for the title.
“It was crazy,’’ Starcher said. “Going into it, we had all the points tallied and we knew if we were second it could have gotten into a tie. Obviously, nobody wants to tie, you want a true winner. We knew we were capable to come out there and win. The 4x4, we’re all friends outside of the track team; we wanted to get it done.’’
Starcher also turned in meet-record times Saturday in the 800 (2:08.40) and 1,600 (4:46.61). Besides the three marks she was part of, 10 other meet records fell on Saturday to go along with the four set on Friday:
Boys AA: Weir sprinter Sebastian Spencer was clocked in 10.60 seconds in the 100, breaking his own mark of 10.65 set in Friday’s qualifiers and added another record in the 200 at 21.61;
Boys A: Webster County’s 4x200 relay was timed in 1:30.12 and its 4x100 in 43.65 — it included two members of its 28-0 state champion basketball team, Reece Nutter and Dawson Tharp;
Girls AAA: Woodrow Wilson’s Mikah Alleyne matched her own mark of 56.04 seconds in the 400;
Girls AA: Winfield’s Dianna Goodman cleared 11 feet, 4 inches to win the pole vault;
Girls A: Notre Dame’s Sophie Talkington went 11-31/4 in the pole vault; Williamstown’s 4x200 relay zipped around the track in 1:45.36, its 4x400 in 4:10.21 and Wheeling Central completed the 4x100 in 50.04 seconds.
The high-point winners were — AAA boys: Chris Barbera, Woodrow Wilson (30); AA boys: Winfield’s Withrow (32.5), A boys: Blake Jarrell, Ravenswood (26); AAA girls: Alleyne (40), the meet’s lone winner of four individual events, the 200 and 400 dashes and 100 and 300 hurdles; AA girls: Allie Germann, Winfield (28); A girls: Ella Hesson, Williamstown (32.5).