Prep track: Hurdles, field events key to Poca's success
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- All-State potential lines the Poca track boys roster behind the strength of throwers and hurdlers who hope to do more than just compete at the West Virginia track and field state championships.
Sophomore thrower Christian Buckley and senior hurdler Josh Crites will lead the Dots and represent two of the strongest competitors in their respective events in the Class AA meet Friday and Saturday at University of Charleston Stadium.
"Basically, the hurdles and field events are what's carried us this year," Poca Coach John Bonecutter said. "This is probably one of the most successful years in boys track we've had. We've won three consecutive regional titles in boys track, but this is our first-ever Cardinal Conference championship this year, so winning the conference for the boys was a big accomplishment."
Buckley enters the meet as the state's No. 1 in the discus and shot put, according to www.runwv.com. Last year, Buckley placed third in the discus and fourth in shot at the State Meet.
"I think he's definitely a contender to win a state title," Bonecutter said.
In fact, the Dots hope to earn first-, second-, and third-place finishes in the discus as they did at the Class AA Region 4 Championship.
Behind Buckley, senior Quentin Buckley and senior Jacob Hickman will look to place among the state's best. In the shot, Quentin Buckley will also contend alongside brother Christian Buckley.
In the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, Crites will look to improve upon his sixth-place finish last year. He also will compete in the 110 high hurdles. Crites ranks top 10 statewide in Class AA for both events. Fellow Dot Austin McNeely will join Crites in the 300 hurdles, as well as Poca's shuttle hurdles relay team. Poca also qualified its 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
Other Poca individual athletes expected to contend for points include A.J. Keyes (long jump), Hank Larch (long jump), Nathan Ranson (high jump) and Travis Davis (pole vault).
Keyes and Ranson are ranked top 10 in the state in their events and hope to earn points in the field events as the throwers and other Dots have done all season.
With solid performances in the field events, Bonecutter said the ninth-ranked Dots hope to finish in the top five. Bridgeport enters as the state's No. 1 Class AA boys team, though Bonecutter said he considers defending champ Ritchie County the favorite to win. Other top contenders include third-ranked Roane County, Keyser, Oak Glen, Weir and Fairmont Senior.
For 10th-ranked Herbert Hoover, Josh Gurski represents the top boys threat. Individually, he'll compete in the 400, 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles.
"Josh is our top individual and once again, he's really worked his butt off for four years to get where he's at," Huskies Coach Lance Moore said. "He's got a real good time in the 300 hurdles, which he actually ran for the very first time in his life at the regionals and won the region in it. He's got an opportunity to possibly place in all his individual events really in the 110 hurdles and the 400 meter."
Other Hoover boys individuals competing at the State Meet include Josh McClung (1600, 3200), Zane Weese (shot put, discus) Noah Toops (3200) and Tyler Hagewood (110 hurdles). In relays, the Huskies will compete in the 4x100, 4x200, 4x800 and shuttle hurdles.
The Hoover girls team is led by sophomore Emilee Henry, a contender in the 100, 200 and 400.
"She's one of the younger ones in those top qualifying times, but she's worked hard and hopefully, things can go her way and she can score some points," Moore said of Henry.
Huskies high jumper Bailey Aab will compete following her regional title in the event. Hoover also qualified relays in the 4x100 and 4x800.
For the Poca girls, Paula Ord (300 hurdles), Kristen "Taylor" Broughman (shot put), Kelsey Westfall (discus) and Keree Moles (discus) will compete individually, in addition to the Dots' shuttle hurdles relay.
No local Class AA girls teams ranks among the state's top 10. Defending runner-up Frankfort enters No. 1, with Oak Glen and Keyser ranked second and third.
On the boys side, beyond Kanawha Valley teams Hoover and Poca, Scott's Will Shaffer, a Marshall commit, will look to make a statement as he ranks top three in the 800, 1600 and 3200.
For the Skyhawks girls, University of Charleston commit Haylie Damron ranks top six in the long jump and 300 hurdles. Other top Scott girls include Samantha Graffius (800, 1600), Sheena Chambers (1600, 3200) and Brittany Green (3200). The Scott girls will race in every relay except the 4x200.
Sissonville's Grace Montgomery ranks top 10 in the 300 hurdles entering states.