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Prep cross country: Showdown with Hurricane looms large for Winfield

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Nearing the heart of the cross country schedule, the Winfield girls team continues to improve and showcase to the region the Generals are a contender.

Winfield placed third at the Geico Classic at Cabell Midland and claimed second at the Chick-fil-A Invitational at Parkersburg South. On Saturday, the Generals will look for similar success in a tough task against Region IV favorite Hurricane at the Hurricane Invitational.

The Redskins rank No. 2 in Class AAA and boast reigning Mountain State Athletic Conference Runner of the Year Tori Dent, in addition to several other top runners.

"We're coming out strong, but I'm also really optimistic that we can get stronger and stronger as the season goes," Generals Coach Ashleigh Winter said. "It's just showing how hard they've been working in the practices. They work their butts off."

Buoyed by Winfield's early-season success, the Generals rank 10th in girls Class AAA, according to www.runwv.com in meets held by Sept. 1.

Perhaps one reason for the team's success is the lack of a standout, but rather several runners racing close together near the top.

"I don't think one person can make the team," Winter said. "I'm really proud of all of them and all the work that they've put into each of the practices. They do work, so I don't think that it's just one specific person leading the team at this point."

Junior Barkley Castro serves as the veteran to the team's younger corps, and Castro has performed well in that position, said Winter, a 2004 graduate of St. Albans High School.

"She knows the ropes." Winter said of Castro. "She's been to all these courses from all the past meets. I think she's been a really good role model to them, and I think she's been really supportive in being able to step up and take that role."

Those benefitting from Castro's leadership include freshmen Brittney McMillion and Rachael Ungland, who finished fourth and fifth respectively at Chick-fil-A. Castro finished 11th individually at the meet, while fellow junior Darian Wikel took 12th.

Though Hurricane ranks among the state's top teams, the Redskins continue to run less than full strength while several runners wait to return from injuries.

* * *

WHILE THE Winfield girls battle Hurricane, the George Washington boys will look to challenge in a Region III test at the Ripley Covered Bridge Invitational on Saturday.

"Ripley is in our region and that's the team we're kind of eyeing right now, the team we kind of want to beat," Patriots Coach Nick Bias said.

Ripley is right where the team wants to be, Coach Hilary Groves said. Ripley won both the Autumn Classic at St. Mary's and the Chick-Fil-A Invitational, and finished second to Cabell Midland at the Geico Classic.

Five seniors lead Ripley, including Caleb Casto, Chad Longanacre, Ryan Gregory, Sammy Shaver and Colton Holmes.

For GW, junior Matthew Brafford won the individual title at both the Autumn Classic and Chick-Fil-A. To open the season, Brafford defeated other top runners Nick Trefz, of Fairmont, and Ritchie County's Johnny Hogue. At Chick-fil-A, Brafford crossed in 16:03, 50 seconds quicker than runner-up Brody Born, of Preston.

Beyond Brafford, Bias said the team's No. 2 runner sophomore Chad Hollandsworth has made large contributions. Other runners expected to play large roles in the team's success include seniors Andrew Sivaprakasam, Marcus Taylor, and Ryan Humphrey, a transfer from Buffalo, among others.

On the girls side, juniors Adrienne Arnold and Rowan Maher will lead GW, while All-Conference runner Ali Cunningham and senior Melissa Hughart pace Ripley.

Other top performers expected at the Covered Bridge meet include Class AA-A teams Ravenswood, St. Mary's and Charleston Catholic, as well as Class AAA squad Parkersburg.

* * *

AS MANY Kanawha Valley teams race closer to home Saturday, Capital and Scott will travel to run against some of the state's toughest competition at the Forest Festival Invitational in Elkins.

The Scott girls rank third in the state for Class AA-A, while senior Will Shaffer represents Scott as the lone boys runner, though is ranked second individually.

Capital's Peyton Panger will look to continue her successful sophomore campaign, ranked ninth in the state.

In addition to Scott, many of the state's top powers will be in attendance. Defending Class AAA boys champ Jefferson will attend and will bring its eighth-ranked girls team. Fellow Class AAA powers Hampshire and Buckhannon-Upshur will also race.

In Class AA-A, both the Philip Barbour and East Fairmont boys and girls teams rank in the top 10 and will be present at Forest Festival.


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