By Steve Keenan
Register-Herald Sports Writer
State meet veterans and newcomers alike will tackle the West Virginia high school cross country championship course Saturday at Cabell Midland High School.
Returning all-staters Levi Snedegar, a senior from Greenbrier East, and Brettley Harris, a junior from Webster County, will lead the local charge. Snedegar, the Region 3 runner-up last week, was seventh in Class AAA last year at Ona, running 16 minutes, 10.89 seconds. Harris, the AA-A Region 1 runner-up, was sixth in 16:22.6 in last year’s AA-A state event.
“The top six is so close (together),” Snedegar said recently. “It depends on who’s hot.
“I’d like to get in the top five or top six.”
He’s predicted fifth by www.runwv.com.
Runners such as PikeView junior Jason Weitzel, Woodrow Wilson junior Emily Fedders and Nicholas County sophomore Aidan Payton have their sights set on standing on the Top 10 podium this year.
Weitzel, 12th a year ago, won the AA-A Region 3 title last Thursday to continue a stellar year, during which he won the Coalfield Conference championship and several other races. He’s picked to finish fourth, right behind Harris, in www.runwv.com predictions. According to the running website, Weitzel has defeated Harris in all four head-to-head 2013 meetings.
Fedders was 13th at states as a sophomore and would like to move up a few notches. She said last week she’s still shooting for a sub-20-minute effort (she ran 19:30.11 in 2012).
Payton, fourth in Region 4 last week, placed 23rd in the 2012 state meet, covering the course in 21:16.74.
“I’m going for Top 10,” she said last week.
Oak Hill will be represented by junior Cody Gillespie and senior Nick Oxendale, who placed third and seventh, respectively, in region competition. In 2012, Gillespie was 32nd in the triple-A state meet, while Oxendale placed 61st.
Besides Snedegar, Greenbrier East will be represented by individual runners Shaye Gadomski and Lauren Lindsey in the girls division. Princeton’s Taylor Hamm is also an individual girls qualifier.
Class AA-A individual qualifiers include Richwood’s John Bard, Liberty’s Tanner Cantley and Greenbrier West’s Kaleb Hamrick on the boys side, and Sherman’s Amelia Sebok and Samantha Garretson and Webster County’s Samantha Stout on the girls side.
Team-wise, the Nicholas County boys — led by fifth-place finisher Matt Christiansen — were third in the AA-A Region 4 meet to earn a ticket.
From AA-A Region 3, girls team qualifiers are PikeView and Richwood, while boys team qualifiers are Sherman, Westside, PikeView and Greater Beckley Christian.
Greater Beckley Christian will be making its first state meet appearance in the sport’s second year in existence at the school. Greater Beckley missed a state meet berth when it placed sixth in region competition in its inaugural season in 2012. Four of this year’s members were part of that squad.
“The guys are real excited. They earned their way to get there,” said Ron Moreland, the GBC coach, whose team was fourth in the Region 3 meet at PikeView.
Senior Joseph Cornett, a transfer from Wyoming East, led Greater Beckley this year, including a 10th-place region finish. Cornett ran in last year’s state meet for Wyoming East, placing 89th.
“The biggest boost was (the addition of Cornett),” said Moreland, who is assisted by Nick Lucento. “He increased the challenge and the guys had to keep up with him.”
For the most part, all six team members run “within a couple minutes” of each other during races, the coach said.
Other team members include senior Adam Cook, juniors Jimmy Moreland and Zeke Smith and sophomores JonPaul Kessinger and Austin Fernatt.
“The big thing is to try to get them geared toward lowering their personal bests on the course,” said Moreland.
He says it’s been a really good season, considering the team’s youth and newness to the sport. “A lot of the guys have improved their times over last year.”
The state meet will begin with the girls Class AAA race at 10 a.m., followed by the boys triple-A race at 10:45 a.m. After an awards ceremony for those schools, the afternoon will feature AA-A girls at 1 p.m. and AA-A boys at 1:45 p.m.
A total of 487 runners is expected in the two classifications.
Admission is $8 for adults and $7 for students.
Special recognition will be given by the WVSSAC to Hurricane’s Jason Henley, the boys coach of the year, and North Marion’s Larry Mason, the girls coach of the year.
— E-mail: skeenan