Prep track: Hurricane sisters hope to finish careers on a high note
The running, lifting and hours of training culminate for hundreds of track athletes at today's regional championships, though for two Hurricane athletes, their meet marks one of the final chapters to running careers that sparked another bond of sisterhood.
Redskins twin sisters Emily Schwendiman and Natalie Schwendiman, both senior long-distance runners, will be among the many athletes competing to qualify for the state meet at today's Class AAA Region 4 championship. Fittingly, the race will be held at Hurricane where the Schwendimans forged their running bond years ago.
"It's cool," Emily Schwendiman said. "It's been fun running with her for, I guess, two or three years. This is our third year actually competitive, so hopefully, we'll both make it to states. That would be really cool."
Emily Schwendiman ranks in the state's top five in all three of her individual events: the 800-meter run, 1600 (mile) and 3200 (two-mile), according to www.runwv.com.
"Emily comes into the region ranked first in the 3200 and the 1600, and I think she's second in the 800," Hurricane Coach Jason Henley said, "so she's right there and setting the pace for doing something pretty big at state."
Natalie Schwendiman said she admits her sister Emily, who aims to walk-on at Brigham Young University, has the edge running, though it's likely Natalie could qualify for state in her events, too.
"I think she's got a pretty decent shot at making it out in the 1600 and just as much of a shot making it out in the 800," Henley said of Natalie Schwendiman.
The pair will run as they have for the past three years on the Redskins 4x800 team, which enters the region meet ranked third in the state. The relay will face its toughest competition in Winfield, Natalie Schwendiman said.
"We raced at Gazettes and we ran 10 flat and they ran 10:09," she said. "For regionals, we're just going to try to qualify out. We're not going to try to race our best times."
The Schwendimans represent two of Hurricane's many threats as the Redskins look to topple third-ranked Winfield
"The girls side is pretty stacked," Henley said. "Looking at it right now, Winfield's probably the team to beat. We'll be competing for top two, top three."
Beyond Winfield and No. 6 Hurricane, Region 4 features seventh-rated St. Albans, led by sophomore standout Anacia Hines.
On the boys side, Cabell Midland figures to be the favorite as the Knights rank second in the state to three-time defending champion Jefferson.
Senior Jacob Burcham, one of the state's best-ever distance runners, leads Midland, though the talent doesn't end there, with Avery Campbell, Brian Lawhon and Mason Dino each ranked among the state's top 10 in distance events. Hurdlers Nate Moore and Niles Dailey represent another team strength.
The Knights will continue to run with eyes pointed toward state. That strategy included not running "full go" at Friday's Mountain State Athletic Conference Championships in order to better rest and prepare for the regional, then state.
"I know not going full strength at the MSAC cost us the team title, but with regionals only five days later, it was a move that was best for our athletes and best for our team leading into the state championship," Midland Coach Chris Parsons said.
Meanwhile, Point Pleasant, Huntington and Winfield join Midland in the state's top 10 and figure to threaten the Knights' regional title hopes.
George Washington and Greenbrier East enter today's Region 3 championship, to be held at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field, among the state's top 10, while the girls team title appears to be for the taking.
The Patriots boys rank 10th behind the No. 7 Spartans. No girls teams from Region 3 rank in the state's top 10, though Greenbrier East figures to be among top contenders for the championship because of its amount of athletes, GW Coach Brent Walker said.
The Greenbrier East girls team lists three relays among the state's top 10, including first for the 4x400.
GW is expected to qualify several athletes, including elite distance runner Matthew Brafford.
"I think from a distance standpoint, Matt Brafford is certainly someone who will contend in the 1600 and the 3200," Walker said. "From a sprinters standpoint, Jacob Jackson has certainly proven he can run with the state's elite."
Jackson ranks top 10 in the state for both the 200 and 400, while Brafford ranks second in the state to Midland's Burcham in both the 1600 and 3200. As Brafford and Burcham race in separate regions, it's expected both will secure individual event titles.
On the girls side, Patriots freshman Lillie Jacobs and Capital sophomore Peyton Panger represent two of the most talented Kanawha Valley athletes at the Region III meet.
Jacobs ranks fifth in AAA girls for discus. Panger enters as the region's top girls distance runner, ranking top five in the state in both the mile and two-mile.
Panger's teammate Tatiyanna Wood is also expected among top contenders in her main event, the 100 hurdles. Also in hurdles, Shady Spring figures to be a threat, with the eighth-ranked shuttle hurdle relay, and top 10 hurdlers Lyndsey Thompson and Ali Kominsky in the 300s.