CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Many of the Mountain State's top high school track and field teams will descend upon Charleston today in what many athletes and coaches bill as a state meet preview in the Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays.
The meet, to be held today and Saturday, features five of the state's six reigning track team champions, along with many individual state title holders and other traditional powers all competing at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field.
For athletes, the meet represents a chance to gauge their opposition in one of the regular season's final tune-ups.
"Gazettes gives us that last opportunity to see where we are, see what modifications we have to make, if we have any we need to make, before heading into championship time," Hurricane distance Coach Jason Henley said.
The Redskins will be led by the squad's girls distance runners, including senior Emily Schwendiman, a favorite to win the Class AAA 3200-meter run, as well as contend in the 800 and 1600.
Schwendiman will battle with her many talented teammates along with Capital's Peyton Panger and a slew of Winfield distance runners. Panger enters as the favorite in the mile, while the Generals boast as many as four runners who will threaten for top spots in distance events.
The Generals girls squad, ranked third in AAA, according to www.runwv.com, feature balance across the board with solid performers in sprints, distance and field events.
"They're coming along, you just have to stay after it," Winfield Coach David Bailey said. "My kids, so far, I can't complain. Under the circumstances, they're doing a great job. It seems like they're starting to step up and doing what they have to do, and that's real important."
Emily Cole, Anika Shah, Haeley Moore and Mary Zulauf lead the Winfield sprinters as each are projected for top-10 finishes in their respective sprint events.
On the AAA level, Winfield and Hurricane will contend with top-ranked Buckhannon-Upshur and defending champ Morgantown, as well as sixth-ranked University, among other teams.
In boys AAA action, three-time defending state champ Jefferson enters as the team to beat. Cabell Midland, currently rated No. 2, poses a threat at the state meet, but will divide its team this weekend, with many of its top athletes racing in the Eastern Relays at the University of Louisville.