By Brian Woodson
For The Register-Herald
Cross country turned into cold country.
It didn’t bother Amelia Sebok.
“There was even snow hitting me in the face,” said Sebok, a sophomore from Sherman, who captured the girls individual honors in the Class AA-A Region III cross country meet held on a winter-like Thursday afternoon at PikeView High School. “I loved it.”
While Jason Weitzel didn’t profess love or perfection, the conditions didn’t slow him down, as the PikeView junior captured the Region 3 title for a second year in a row, beating his nearest competitor by a full minute.
“That was my goal,” Weitzel said. “I expected to win this one.”
While Sebok won the individual title, PikeView took the team crown, placing six runners in the top nine, led by the quartet of Katelyn Odle (2nd, 22:36), Sophie Klein (3rd, 22:57), Lauren Hatfield (4th, 23:32) and Alexis Sheets (5th, 23:47).
“They have dominated all season long so it was no surprise, it would have been a letdown if they had not placed first,” PikeView first-year coach Gary Bailey said. “They have run well as a team, they have really placed close at the top, all of them have run close together.”
Odle, who finished second to Sebok, wasn’t thrilled with the conditions, which included 40 degree (or lower) temperatures, a cold, blustery wind and even a few snow flurries indicating the coming arrival of winter.
“It is not for me; you just feel stiff and your lungs hurt,” said Odle, who finished third in the Region III meet last year.
Sobek, who was second in the event last fall, jumped out quick on the competition, finishing the 3.1-mile trek in 22:00, which was her goal heading into the event.
“Just to win the race, that is what I wanted to do,” said Sobek, who has had an ongoing competition with Odle.
“We have always been neck and neck,” Odle said. “She just pulled ahead early in the race.”
The top two girls teams advanced to the Class AA-A state meet slated for Nov. 2 in Ona, with PikeView (16) joined by Richwood (46)
from the three schools that fielded full teams.
“I am hoping if not expecting that they surprise some people,” Bailey said. “I think people in the north may underestimate this group from the Coalfields.”
The top 10 individual finishers qualified also for state competition, which included PikeView’s Kaylin Kessinger (8th, 25:34) and Rebecca Sheets (9th, 25:56), the Richwood duo of Madison Frame (6th, 23:49) and Shanley Amick (10th, 26:15) and Sherman’s Samantha Garretson (7th, 24:42).
Sobek, who finished 20th in the state meet as a freshman, has her sights set higher for this year.
“She ran good in the cold, she got out from the start and really took control of the race, never looked back, that kind of surprised me at first,” Sherman coach Adam Coon said. “We are going for a top 10 spot so that is her goal and that is where we are going from here.”
Weitzel left no doubt from the start who would win the boys race, jumping out early to finish in 17:26, a full minute ahead of freshman Jesse Cannday (18:26) of Sherman, which won the team title.
“He is the kind of kid that he is upset if he is in second place,” Bailey said. “He is a tremendous competitor.”
Weitzel, who helped PikeView to the sectional soccer title later that evening, came prepared for the conditions.
“I would have liked it better if it was in the sun a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad, a little hotter would have been a little better,” he said, with a smile. “I tried to wear warm clothes before the race when I am warming up, just try to stay warm for the start of the race.”
He jumped ahead early, stretched out his lead and cruised to the finish line, looking fresh even if, in reality, he was feeling the pain.
“I usually start off the fast just to try to break the competition,” Weitzel said. “I am pretty tired. Once you start running you don’t really feel as cold, but as soon as you stop, you feel it pretty good.”
Sherman placed four runners in the top nine, including Cannday, his sophomore brother, Zach (18:34), Thomas Bowles (5th, 18:59) and Nick Carrier (9th, 19:29), winning the team title for a second straight year.
“We won a squeaker here last year, and I think we were 11th or 12th at the state meet,” Coon said. “We didn’t do as well as we wanted to do there, we have been in the top 10 in the polls all year. Right now we are sitting at 8th this week. This is basically the same team and they have improved pretty good over the winter.”
Four boys teams qualified for state competition, including Sherman (32), Westside (68), PikeView (69) and Greater Beckley Christian (116).
PikeView, which has just two seniors on its team, also received solid finishes from Garett Butler (12th, 19:46), Dakota Cecil (19:55) — the second ranked freshman in the state — and football quarterback Chris McBride (17th, 20:12).
“We have really come along since last year, they didn’t have a complete team last year, now we have over seven runners,” Bailey said. “We hope if we qualified today to compete and really improve next year, we are sort of shooting for next year.”
Other top 10 qualifiers included Richwood’s John Bard (4th, 18:58), Westside’s Nathaniel Evans (6th, 19:00), Tanner Cantley (7th, 19:04) of Liberty, Kaleb Hamrick of Greenbrier West (9th, 19:06) and Greater Beckley Christian product Joseph Cornett (19:33).
All participated on an afternoon more fit for staying inside, but dealing with the conditions is just part of the sport.
“We train in whatever it is, it has been an unseasonably warm fall, it has been Indian summer, which don’t get me wrong, we have enjoyed,” Bailey said. “I don’t think it had a whole lot of bearing on the outcome, everybody had to run in the same weather.
“For the most part I think the real competitors, it doesn’t bother them.”
Weitzel has his goals set high for the state meet, having finished 12th last year in Ona and 13th in 2011.
“I am going for the win and if I don’t get it and I run a good time that is fine too,” Weitzel said. “That course has a big hill in the first mile, where this course has a pretty easy first mile and then the next two miles are harder on our course.”
Sobek certainly liked it.
“Where we practice it is just like here,” she said. “It is really hilly and rough and weeds sticking out of the ground, it just makes me feel right at home.”
As for celebrating her regional victory, Sobek had other plans after the race.
“I will probably go warm up first,” she said, with a smile.
—Contact Brian Woodson