By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
A drop down in classification opened up some avenues for the Nicholas County track and field program this spring.
Now competing in Class AA, the Grizzlies have experienced a good level of success this season — particularly on the girls’ side.
And the Grizzlies hope to keep the momentum going as they enter Region 4 competition Friday afternoon at UC Stadium’s Laidley Field in Charleston.
Nicholas will join Chapmanville, Clay County, Herbert Hoover, Mingo Central, Poca, Scott, Sissonville, Tolsia and Wayne in the Region 4 event, which will begin at about 3 p.m.
“I think the girls have a chance of winning (the region title),” said Nicholas County coach Rocky Roberts, whose girls have compiled several solid performances, including winning the Coalfield Conference title Tuesday and placing a close second to Shady Spring in the Fayetteville Lions Club Invitational last Friday.
The shift to the double-A ranks has proven beneficial in two regards, Roberts said.
“Our kids compete better in the speed races,” he said. “And since we’re a bigger double-A, we can put more kids in every event (helping with potential point accumulation).”
Roberts feels his 4x800 relay team will have a chance to score some points Friday, and a strong hurdling crew led by senior Autumn Tyree and sophomore Elizabeth Messer should perform well, particularly in the 100 hurdles and the shuttle hurdle relay. As of last week, Tyree had the fourth-best 100 hurdles time (16.88) in the state this spring, according to www.runwv.com.
Tyree and Messer team with Shayla Stear and Arianna Crawford to comprise the shuttle hurdles unit, which had a state-best clocking of 1:08.74 earlier and has since dipped below 1:08.
Freshman 100-meter runner Serena Mullins and distance runner Aidan Payton, also a freshman, have good chances at qualifying, the 4x200 and 4x100 relays should be competitive, and field events performers such as Erica Logar (high jump), Katie Roberts (discus) and Messer and Tyree (both in the long jump) will also be looked to for possible points.
Jared Tharp (high jump and long jump) and Grayson Kemmerling (800) will lead the Nicholas boys.
Starting at 10 a.m. Friday, the Class AA Region 3 teams will also compete at Laidley Field. They include Bluefield, Independence, James Monroe, Liberty Raleigh, Mount View, PikeView, River View, Summers County, Westside and Wyoming East.
Summers County hurdler Emily Smith will spearhead the Bobcats’ charge Friday. Smith is listed by www.runwv.com as the state’s best performing Class AA 100-meter hurdler (15.86) so far this year.
Summers’ Isiah Brown is the seventh-best 100 runner (11.73). Other locals expected to make a splash are: Independence’s Robbie Cuthbert and Zach Fleshman (fifth and seventh, respectively, in the runwv.com discus list); Independence’s John Powell, third in the 400 (52.84); Westside’s James Adkins, fourth in both the shot put (46-4) and the discus (140-10); and Liberty’s Tymara McDowell, who is listed as sixth-best in the discus (94-8) and eighth-best in the shot put (32-8).
With an eye on qualifying for the state meet, Class A Region 3 teams will compete at Charleston, as well, with the squads starting at 4 p.m. today. Participating squads will include Fayetteville, Greenbrier West, Meadow Bridge, Midland Trail, Richwood, Sherman, Tug Valley, Van and Valley.
Fayetteville’s Jonathan Gore (with third-best long jump effort (21-10) according to www.runwv.com, and fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 200 and 100-meter dashes) is expected to be one of the top Fayette County Class A competitors.
Midland Trail sprinter Ethan Barker, who has been among the state’s best performers in the 100 and 200, will pace the Patriots. Trail’s boys 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams had recorded some of the state’s top times as of the end of April.
Valley’s Abby Buchan, in the www.runwv.com Top 10 in the 100, 200 and high jump, will lead her team.
Other locals expected to be at or near the top include: Richwood’s Breanna Mazzella (800, 1600 and 3200); Greenbrier West’s Colby Ennis (110 hurdles); Richwood’s and Greenbrier West’s shuttle hurdle relay teams; Richwood’s Zach Bennett (400 and long jump); Richwood’s Terry Frazier (long jump); Greenbrier West’s Cory Cox (high jump); Pocahontas County’s Devin Rose and Fredriciah Gardner (both in discus); Richwood’s Jamie Bailey (high jump); and Richwood’s Haley Hinchman (300 hurdles).
The state meet will be staged on Friday and Saturday, May 17-18 in Charleston.
— E-mail: skeenan