Few schools around West Virginia have dominated prep track like Winfield in recent years. The Generals have captured 19 state championships since 1997, 10 in girls and nine in boys.
Which is good for fans in Putnam County, but puts a great deal of pressure on the Generals each year. Anything less than contending for a state title might be considered a down season.
That brings us to this year’s Winfield boys squad, which came into Thursday’s Tudor’s Biscuit World Charleston Relays as the No. 1 team in the RunWV.com Class AA power rankings despite the fact that coach Shawn Anderson’s team is comprised of just 29 athletes, far under the 40-45 who used to turn out.
Anderson said there are several reasons for the smaller turnout, including the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled the entire season in 2020.
“We just don’t have the depth this year that we’ve had in years past,’’ Anderson said, “so it’s been an adjustment this year. I think some it’s COVID, some of it’s the way the schedule was in the spring with everything running late and at the same time.
“That’s the way it is at a lot of schools. You’ve got kids who could be helping you, who are not. There are a lot of one-sport athletes nowadays. They don’t realize what this sport can do for the other sports you’re in. It correlates to everything you do.’’
The Generals always have some quality in their ranks, and that’s no different this year with athletes such as hurdler Shaun Webb, distance ace Matthew Scheneberg and pole vaulter Ian Johnson, who are all ranked either first or second in their main events in the RunWV leaders lists from around the state.
Webb came into the Tudor’s meet (formerly known as the Gazette-Mail Relays) owning the top times in the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300 intermediate hurdles. Webb won the highs Thursday with a clocking of 15.91 seconds, matching his season’s best and turned in his top time of 42.04 in winning the 300s, helping keep Winfield afloat in the team standings.
At press time, through 16 of 18 events in the boys meet, the Generals trailed Point Pleasant 111-106. Point is third in the latest RunWV AA power rankings.
Scheneberg holds the state’s second-best times in all three individual distance runs with times of 2:00.74 in the 800, 4:24.35 in the 1,600 and 9:29.88 in the 3,200. He trails only Fairmont Senior’s Logan Zuchelli in those three events this season. Scheneberg won the 1,600 in 4:27.88 Thursday and the 800 in 2:03.06.
Johnson, meanwhile, has cleared 13 feet, 4 inches in the pole vault, the best effort among AA competitors in West Virginia coming into this weekend, though Point Pleasant’s Cael McCutcheon went 13-6 to win on Thursday.
Perhaps as a testament to their smaller numbers, the Generals are all over the map in their five relay events — ranking as high as first in the shuttle hurdles and second in the 4x400, but sixth, eighth and out of the top 10 in the other three.
The gap between Winfield and current No. 2 Keyser is very small, so Anderson knows his squad will have to be resourceful as the season hits its stretch run, with the AA state meet scheduled for June 11 at UC Stadium.
“We’ve got to work every week,’’ Anderson said. “As long as we stay healthy, we might be in there with them. That’s our key, because we just can’t afford [injuries].’’
As for the extra pressure the Generals face every week because of their reputation, Anderson tried to be realistic.
“The kids know about our tradition,’’ Anderson said, “before they even get there in middle school. They know the success the good Lord has given us. I think at some point in time, you have to be self-motivated when you get to this level.’’
Webb, a senior, said he simply hopes for the best when it comes to his own finishes and the team’s finish, and he’s willing to accept whatever happens.
“It’s a really hard situation, because you don’t know what’s coming up [around the state],’’ Webb said. “The thing is, if I make it to states and someone beats me and I get second, I’ll congratulate them and say, ‘Good job.’
“As far as the team, it’s never a down year as long as you had a good time with your friends. It’s a good year as long as you PR’d and had a good time.’’
Webb said he hopes to lower his own personal records to 15.5 in the high hurdles and 41 in the 300s by the time the state meet arrives.
Point Pleasant was making a run at Winfield in the boys meet with a big assist from its sprint relay teams, which won the 4x100 and 4x200. Cody Schultz also took the discus for the Black Knights.
In the girls meet, Winfield was maintaining its large lead with four wins from sprinter Allie Germann (100, 200, 400, long jump) and three from distance runner Rachael Withrow (800, 1,600, 3,200). The Generals had almost doubled their lead against Point Pleasant in the team standings through 15 of 18 events, with a margin of 167-85.
For Point, Addy Cottrill captured the shot put and discus and Elicia Wood led the high jump and 300 hurdles.
The AAA portion of the Tudor’s Meet will be held starting at 3 p.m. Friday at UC Stadium. The three-day event wraps up at 9 a.m. Saturday with the Class A meet. The Tudor’s meet mirrors the setup of the state meet, which will be spread over three days this year (June 10-12).