GRAFTON—After a slight adjustment in their schedule, the Grafton High School (GHS) track team opened their 2022 season at home, under new leadership.
At the conclusion of last year’s season, then Head Coach Becky Lake, announced that after five years she would be stepping away from the program to focus on family.
Now, picking up on the success Lake had built over her half of a decade with the program and looking to continue making improvements and growing the team, Wes Norris has stepped into the reins, leading the boys’ track team with 20 plus years of coaching experience under his belt.
Heading the Lady Bearcats’ track team this season is PD Louzy. Louzy is no stranger to the art of competitive running, as he also fills the role of GHS head cross country coach in the fall.
And the new coaching staff is off to a solid start leading the Bearcats to a top finish in their first meet of the season.
The Cats were originally scheduled to travel to Bridgeport on March 26 for their season opener, however, this event was canceled due to winter weather, giving Grafton the opportunity to host their first meet at home on Tuesday.
Grafton played host to Philip Barbour and Parkersburg South High Schools with standout performances on both the girls’ and boys’ sides that earned them a second-place overall finish, with a combined team total of 91 points.
In the 4x800 meter relay, the Lady Cats team made up of Kevie Sipes, Emily Viani, River Sipes and McKenzie Flohr came in seven seconds faster than Philip Barbour to secure the first-place finish with a time of 11:20.54.
Although this was the Lady Bearcat’s only first place finish in track events, sophomores Caroline Wellman and Jerra Halbritter dominated field events, each recording a first-place finish.
Wellman would earn top points for her team in the girls long jump with a final of 13-09, while Halbritter’s strength propelled her to the top in the girls shot put (4kg) as she recorded a final throw of 32-06.
Halbritter also placed well in the discus throw, placing third with her throw of 84-03.
In addition, the Lady Cats recorded third, fourth and fifth place finishes in the girls 100 meter, with Abigail Stewart coming in at third with a time of 15.07, Rylee Jones in fourth with a time of 15.87 and Madison Snider in ffifth with a finishing time of 17.68.
During a neck and neck battle in the girls 400-meter dash, GHS junior Avrie Kelley came in just three seconds behind the leader for a strong second-place finish in the event.
The Grafton ladies also filled top spots in the 800-meter run with R. Sipes crossing the finish line in a time of 2:54.48, earning second, Kayla Greathouse (3:12) in third and Maddie Moats (3:15.52) in fourth.
This trend would continue for the Lady Bearcats. Grafton again claimed second, third and fourth place finishes in 1600-meter run with K. Sipes in second at a finishing time of 6:49.56, Greathouse in third at 7:00.65 with Cheyenne Duncan-Beverly close behind in fourth with a time of 7:01.25.
For the boy’s team, between both track and field events, the Bearcats recorded five first-place finishes, two of which came from freshman Michael Niggemyer.
By a four second margin, Niggemyer beat out Philip Barbour’s Michael Morral, taking first-place with a time of 2:19.99 in the 800-meter.
In addition, his finishing time of 5:10.05 earned him first in the 1600-meter run.
Niggemyer added to his top finishes with a second-place performance in the boys long jump, while junior Seth Horne took first in the boys pole vault, and senior Dylan Blake’s shot put throw of 33-11 gave him the first place spot in the event.
Bearcat junior Jeremiah Mitchell also opened with a good showing, finishing fourth in the 100-meter dash, third in the 200-meter and second in the 400-meter.
Also contributing to the boys’ score of 47, were the three second place finishes won by each of the Bearcats’ relay teams.
With a solid opening and a promising season ahead, the GHS track teams are scheduled to compete at Buckhannon-Upshur on Tuesday, April 5 and will be working toward breaking some PRs.