CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Matt Brafford left no doubt his dominance on Class AAA Region 3 runners as he captured his fourth regional championship in as many years at Ripley's Covered Bridge course at Cedar Lakes on Thursday evening.
Brafford, a George Washington senior, entered the race ranked first in the state, according to www.runwv.com. He proved his ranking worthy as he ran to a 16:22 first-place finish and his fourth individual regional title, 67 seconds faster than his closest competitor.
"It's really an honor for me to do that," Brafford said of his regional run. "It meant a lot that that was the last time I was going to run that regional race and go out there and win it all four years."
The week's rain turned the course to mud in many areas, but Brafford maintained focus despite difficult conditions, GW Coach Nick Bias said.
"He was very business-like today," Bias said. "He just kind of took care of business, knew what he had to do and just went out and won. You always want to run faster, but I think he's OK with that, especially with those horrible conditions."
Also at Cedar Lakes, Capital junior Peyton Panger won her second consecutive regional title. Panger won with nearly equal dominance as Brafford by finishing in 19:54, ahead of second-place finisher Emily Fedders, of Woodrow Wilson, by 50 seconds.
Capital's Riley Simmerman (third) and Mary Keeton Lane (seventh) joined Panger in the top 10, to lift the Cougars to the team win.
Behind Capital, GW finished second as Bias said the girls squad ran "lights out." Adrienne Arnold (fourth) and Rowan Maher (eighth) paced the Patriots effort.
Ripley's girls finished in third, four points behind GW.
On the boys side, Ripley raced away with a comfortable team victory ahead of GW. All five Ripley runners who scored placed in the top 15, led by junior Antonio Jones.
Michael Ruhnke (fifth) and Marshall Sharp (eighth) paced the third-place Cougars.
Cody Gillespie took third overall for fourth-place Oak Hill.
AAA Region 4
CABELL MIDLAND sophomore Nick Salmons claimed the individual championship in 16:12 and the Knights placed six runners in the top 10 to win at the team's home course.
Salmons ran tight with Hurricane's Jake Henley (second, 16:22) and Winfield's R.J. Weiford (third, 16:25), before taking control in the final half of the race.
"Nick made a little move about halfway through the race and opened up about a 20-, 30-meter gap on them, and he was able to maintain that," Midland Coach Chris Parsons said. "That's the best race he's had in his running career so far."
The Knights ran exceptionally, though Parsons said the Redskins' second-place effort pushed Midland.
"Hurricane ran a great meet," he said. "Their guys stepped up and ran really tough."
Winfield finished third, also advancing as a team to the state championship.