CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nearing the finish of the cross country season, Kanawha Valley teams know the competition and many raced in a preview of the Class AAA Region 3 championship on Thursday night.
The region's top contenders, as well as squads and individuals from around the area, gathered at the George Washington Invitational held at Meadowood Park in Tornado, with Ripley claiming the boys title and Winfield winning on the girls side.
For the boys, the region's top three squads - all ranked in the state's Class AAA top 10 by RunWV.com - ran. Ripley entered ranked the highest at No. 5, followed by No. 7 Oak Hill and No. 8 GW.
"All in all, a pretty good meet, a pretty good showing," Ripley Coach Jimmy Groves said.
Groves said he gave credit to his team's top competitors in GW and Oak Hill for pushing Ripley.
"They're definitely getting better - both of them," he said. "Both teams are coached well and their runners are picking up their times on us, but we're going to do our best."
Chad Longanacre paced Ripley with a sixth-place finish as teammate Caleb Casto finished ninth overall.
Ripley boasts four seniors within its top six runners, and that played a large factor in the team's success, Longanacre said.
"We've been running with each other for forever, and it's just like we're best friends," he said. "Practice gets more fun than it is tough."
While Ripley took the team title, GW's Matthew Brafford won the individual honor with a personal record of 15:48.
"Our top five guys all ran their personal bests," Patriots Coach Nick Bias said. "I think we're moving along at the right time, and hopefully, with four more weeks in the season left, we'll be peaking at the right time."
GW finished fifth Thursday behind Ripley, Huntington, Oak Hill and Class AA Buffalo, though Bias said he's noticing improvement from the Patriots.