The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 15, 2014

Nicholas County girls hope to build on strong season

Class AA regional track meets today in Charleston

Entering region track and field qualifying today, the Nicholas County girls aim to continue building on what has turned into a strong overall campaign.

The Grizzlies, the state’s fifth-best Class AA girls team as listed on the statewide website, will be among the squads in the Class AA Region 4 field beginning at 10 a.m. today at UC Stadium’s Laidley Field in Charleston.

“I’m very anxious about it all,” said Nicholas County first-year head coach Robin Martin. “They’ve been a great group of kids.”

Junior hurdler Elizabeth Messer will lead the NCHS girls, who are the defending region champs. Messer had the best 100-meter hurdles time statewide (16.19) through May 10, according to

“She’s only been beaten once (by non-Class AA runners in a meet at Ritchie County) this season,” Martin said of Messer. “She should be the top in the region.”

Messer and the defending state champ in the double-A 100 hurdles, Summers County’s Emily Smith, will both be running in Charleston Thursday, but Smith and the Bobcats will be competing in the Region 3 meet in the evening, so their paths won’t cross on the track.

Messer also helps anchor the Grizzlies’ state-leading shuttle hurdle relay unit, which has turned in a time of 1:09.14. She and teammate Arianna Crawford were members of the state champion shuttles quartet in 2013, and they will be joined by teammates Maria Stear and Alexis Brown as they seek to qualify for a chance to defend that title.

Nicholas also has “very competitive” 4x100 and 4x200 relays. In addition, sprinter Serena Mullins will aim to move on in the 100 and 200, and distance runner Aidan Payton – who’s recovering from a mid-season injury - will seek to make some noise in the 1600 and 3200.

“Hopefully Serena will be in the top three in the 100 and 200; it’s a very competitive field,” said Martin. “Aidan’s going to have a tough time qualifying in the 3200 and 1600.”

Long jumpers Dericka Blankenship and Bridget Carson will also be in the mix.

On the boys side, the Grizzlies’ top prospects include shot putter Austin Hill, who had a winning toss of 47-2 1/2 this past Friday at the Fayetteville Lions Club Invitational and should be a contender in that event and the discus, and Jared Tharp in the high jump. Two relay units — 4x100 and shuttle hurdles — both suffered the loss of a key member this week and will be outside shots, Martin said.

Hill’s Friday throw was the fifth-best AA shot put effort as of May 10 in the lists.

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Once the Region 4 teams leave the Laidley Field track, the Region 3 squads will get under way at about 4 p.m.

“Emily Smith will be a top competitor in the 100 hurdles and the long jump,” said Summers County coach Nate Tanner. Smith has the third-best clocking (16.59) in the 100 hurdles. Brandy Morrison, he added, will look to qualify in the 100 and 200 dashes and the 300 hurdles.

Smith is the defending state champ in the shorter hurdles race, but she may eventually have to get by Messer, who was second to Smith at the 2013 state meet but has beaten the Bobcat standout in their lone meeting this spring.

“Messer is real good,” said Tanner. “It was extremely close between them (in the regular season matchup).”

Nayla Bond will look to advance for the Summers girls in the 400, and the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams should be competitive.

For the Bobcat boys, top competitors should include Allen Brown in the field events, sprinters Isaiah Brown and Trea Mann, Jacob Ratliff in the 400, Dacota Thomas in the 300 hurdles, and the 4x800 and shuttle hurdle relay units.

“We’ve been really competitive in every meet we’ve been to, especially against double-A schools,” said Tanner.

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Liberty coach Aaron England feels his squad will have good representation this afternoon.

Leading the way for the Raiders will be Tre McDowell (hurdles), Jaylen McDowell (400) and Jacob Stump (discus) on the boys side, and the girls 4x400 relay quartet of Taylor Daniel, Katie McGinnis, Tiffany Hatfield and Kelsey Brown, as well as Hatfield in the 100 hurdles.

Tre McDowell was sixth in the boys 110 hurdles in last year’s state meet and has the third-best time (15.39) in the event as of May 10.

“I think Tre has come down by almost a full second (compared to his 110 time from last spring),” said England. He has also recently begun running the 300 hurdles and has had success there.

Region 3 action today will also feature several strong field events participants owning solid statewide efforts – Independence’s Marshall Wood (3rd in 139-4) and Robbie Cuthbert (10th in 129-0) and Liberty’s Jacob Stump (8th, 132-2) in the discus, and Summers County’s Allen Brown in both the shot (6th, 46-11 1/2) and discus (4th, 138-3).

PikeView junior distance runner Jason Weitzel is in the midst of another stellar campaign. As of May 10, had him listed as having the fifth-best efforts in the 800 (2:04.34) and 1600 (4:37.04) and fourth-best in the 3200 (9:58.14).

Other top competitors from Region 3 could include Bluefield sprinters D.J. Stewart and Carlos Reed, James Monroe 400 runner Jeffrey Lewis, James Monroe high jumper Rasheed Lowe, Independence high jumper Ryan Shumate, PikeView’s Lexi O’Dell in the 400, Independence’s Adrianna Cook in the 400 and 800, Westside’s Hope Hall in the shot put and Independence’s Megan Testament in the discus.

— E-mail: skeenan

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