GRAFTON—Spring sports season in Taylor County is just around the corner, and at Grafton High School, a couple of familiar faces will again be directing the boys’ and girls’ track teams.
Wes Norris (boys) and Becky Lake (girls) will be looking to take their talented teams deep into the postseason, as each coach has a variety of quality runners, jumpers, and throwers at their disposal.
For the boys, the Bearcats will have 19 athletes who will compete in various events across the board.
They are led by senior returning lettermen Devin Criss (mid-distance), Christopher Loomis (hurdles/high jump), and Luke Nibert (sprints, high jump, long jump), as well seniors Gaige Ash (mid distance) and Aaron Pander (sprints).
The junior class is led by Matthew Derk (returning letterman, hurdles), John Davis (mid distance), Colt Elbon (thrower), Lance Tankersley (mid distance) and Eric Turner (mid distance).
The sophomore class is represented by Aiden Fancher (distance), Xander Larew (thrower), Braydon McCullough (returning letterman, hurdles, sprints, high jump), Lucas Norris (sprints), and Hunter Stanley (thrower).
In the freshman class, Will Angus (sprints, hurdles), Hayden Derk (sprints), Jeremiah Mitchell (mid distance), and Zach Nibert (sprints, long jump).
Norris, who is in his 20th season overall as a track coach in Taylor County and 10th season as the head coach of the Bearcats, is optimistic about what the upcoming season has in store for his squad.
“This year we have a good mix of veteran and young talent,” Norris said recently. “Everyone is working hard to represent our community on the track this Spring. When workouts get hard and legs get weary, we remind them that the goal is not today, the goal is Regionals.”
On the girls’ side, Becky Lake is back for her fourth season as the head coach of the Lady Cats.
Lake, who ran on the GHS track team from 1985-1987, was a member of the state championship team in 1987 where she took the title in the 100m, the 200m, the 400m, and anchored the winning 4X400 meter relay team. She held the state record in the 100m with a time of 12.34 and the 800m with a time of 2: 21, and currently holds school records in the 100m, the 200m, the 400m.
Lake continued her track career at Marshall University where she finished fifth in the 100m at the Southern Conference Championship in 1988. That same year she was named West Virginia Amateur Track Athlete of the Year.
Although her Lady Cats’ numbers are slightly down this year, what isn’t lacking is talent, energy or commitment. They began winter conditioning right after Christmas and have consistently had 12-15 girls participating in weight and cardio training since they began.
In addition, several of the athletes have been frequenting the area strength training centers during the offseason.
Returning for the girls’ team are state qualifiers Jacinda Devart (senior), Josie Grass (senior), Brooke Runner (senior), Brylee Knotts (junior), and Hannah Moats (junior). All five have already proven that they will be top contenders to return to Charleston this year.
“Knotts is focusing on the jumping events but isn’t being ruled out as a hurdler or maybe even a position on a sprint relay,” said Lake. “Jacinda, Josie, and Hannah are showing up strong and will be big assets to the Lady Cats’ sprint relays this season. Brooke found her niche in the 100 high hurdles last year and her gained confidence will make her a fierce competitor in that event as well as the shuttle hurdle relay.”
Senior Megan Kisner and junior Zoe Dobbins are also returners from last year for Lakes’ talented squad.
“Megan was just shy of qualifying for the state meet last year but I’ll be very surprised if we don’t see her there this season,” said an optimistic Lake. “She is starting the season strong and very goal-oriented. Last year was Zoe’s first year running with us. She has improved so much in this short time and is a very coachable and enthusiastic member of our team.”
Also looking very impressive this early in the season are the freshmen runners.
“I believe we will see great things from Avrie Kelley and Kendra Rogucki in the mid-distance events,”
Lake added. “Both had strong showings in their cross-country season this year. Leah Jackson, Abigail Stewart, and Aleecia Shelton are working hard as well in the sprinting events with plans of crushing their personal bests from last year.”
Other members for the girls’ team are juniors Jadyn Blackhurst, Toriana Streets, sophomore Payden Morris, and freshmen Miechelle Jenkins, Chloe Saltis, and Nevaeh Swisher.
Members of both squads will participate in the annual Grafton 5-Mile Run on Sunday, March 15, which is now entering its 45th year. Sponsored by the Grafton High School track teams, the course begins and ends on the track at Grafton High School.
The boys’ season will officially kick off on March 26, when they travel to Clay Battelle for a meet, while the girls’ team will begin their season on March 24, at the Doddridge Opener.