A refreshing shade was a rare luxury on much of the course for the sun-baked Chick-fil-A Beckley Invitational cross-country meet Saturday morning at Beckley-Stratton Middle School.
But it turns out it was plenty shady at the top of the individual leaderboard.
In the high school division, Shady Spring runners swept the individual championships on the challenging 3.1-mile course. Shady Spring junior Charlotte McGinnis threw in a late surge to wind up with a comfortable victory in the girls race, clocking a time of 22 minutes, 20.2 seconds. In the ensuing race, her Tiger teammate, sophomore Jacob Dowdy, matched her exploits, crossing the finish line first in 16:38.7, with Woodrow Wilson freshman Aiden Kneeland (16:39.2) right on his heels in the runner-up spot following a spirited race in the final straightway.
In the middle school races, Shady Spring Junior High's Logan Malott captured the boys event with a time of 12:13.5, while Braxton County Middle's Addison Lloyd (13:16.4) was the girls individual titlist.
The Woodrow Wilson boys and the Braxton County girls captured high school team championships.
Buoyed by Kneeland's runner-up effort on the boys side, as well as placing two other runners in the top 10 (Christian Saffouri, ninth, 19:07.7, and Josh Cormack (10th, 19:19.5), the Flying Eagles logged a low team score of 40 points to claim the spoils. Runner-up Shady Spring was close behind with 46.
Powered by runner-up Bethany Payne (22:33.6) and third-place Laura Cain (22:35.9), the Braxton County girls scored 52 points to best runner-up Greenbrier East (71) and the rest of the field.
Among middle school programs, Shady Spring Junior High (23 points) and Braxton County Middle (57) were boys and girls team winners, respectively.
McGinnis transferred to Shady Spring from Woodrow in the offseason, so she was very familiar with the course and knew when to make her move to the finish line on Saturday.
"I've ran here for six years," said McGinnis. "I'm used to it. No matter what, it's always the hardest course I run.
"I think I have an advantage because I'm so used to it."
McGinnis found herself in third place as she traversed the course's final uphill in the race's closing stages. From there, she kicked it up a notch. "I knew it was a 400 (meters) to the end and I knew that, if I didn't go now, I would lose my chance," she said. "I felt like I could do better but I was glad that I did as well (as I did)."
McGinnis, who placed 21st in the Class AAA state meet for Woodrow Wilson last fall two weeks after breaking her foot, said she utilized a strong three-week summer training period, as well as playing for the Shady Spring soccer squad, to be ready to approach this season. "I set a goal for myself and I let God decide what I was going to do," she said. McGinnis is currently the No. 5 Class AA runner in the runwv.com power rankings, and she aims to stay at that level or improve, she said.
"It's hot," she also said. "I'm glad I got to see everyone and kind of reunite. These are my people I spend most of my time around.
"I'm glad I got to see them and have the support from my family and friends."
After his race, Dowdy was pretty excited. His time Saturday was "a lot better than last year" on the same course, a race he won in 17:50 as a freshman. An injury made that his only race of the year.
"Having Aiden helped a lot," said Dowdy. "It's always nice to have somebody to push you."
The two had a lot of good races against each other in middle school, but "all throughout middle school, he always beat me," Dowdy said ruefully. He also admitted that it may very well have been the first time he beat Kneeland.
"I worked my butt off in the summer," Dowdy said. "Working smarter, not harder."
That included some cross-training and "muscle-building stuff," he said, rather than focusing strictly on piling up the mileage. "I definitely do feel stronger."
His goal, Dowdy says, is to "definitely make all-state at states and win regionals."
After eliminating a small early lead by Kneeland in the race's first half, Dowdy closed a little bit stronger than his foe. "It's always nice to win, especially with a PR."
High school girls team scores
1. Braxton County 52, 2. Greenbrier East 71, 3. Charleston Catholic 85, 4. Woodrow Wilson 111, 5. Princeton 113, 6. Shady Spring 140, 7. George Washington 143, 8. Wyoming East 186, 9. PikeView 201; several other teams had incomplete squads
High school girls top 25 finishers
1. Charlotte McGinnis (SS) 22:20.2, 2. Bethany Payne (BC) 22:33.6, 3. Laura Cain (BC) 22:35.9, 4. Alexis White (WC) 22:38.0, 5. Asia Collins (P) 23:10.8, 6. Alivia Moffatt (WC) 23:43.9, 7. Abbigail Houck (SS) 23:55.8, 8. Lauren Curtis (WW) 23:59.7, 9. Baylee Jarrett (Rich.) 24:03.2, 10. Hannah Fisher (CC) 24:12.7, 11. Makayla Carter (SA) 24:16.6, 12. Gabbie Custer (CC) 24:22.7, 13. Abby Dixon (GE), 24:25.7, 14. Emma Toler (GE) 24:28.3, 15. Heidi Payne (BC) 24:33.6, 16. Jaycee Pritchett (P) 24:52.4, 17. Avery Lilly (SC) 24:55.9, 18. Alexis Graham (GW) 25:04.0, 19. Colleen Lookabill (WE) 25:07.5, 20. Kelsey Davis (Rich.) 25:11.8, 21. Micah Fisher (GE) 25:23.7, 22. Emma Kesterson (GE) 25:28.4, 23. Nicole Bramble (BC) 25:42.1, 24. Madison Farrish (WW) 26:01.8, 25. Teagan Huff (BC) 26:12.4
High school boys team scores
1. Woodrow Wilson 40, 2. Shady Spring 46, 3. Riverside 122, 4. Charleston Catholic 133, 5. Webster County 143, 6. Oak Hill 155, 7. PikeView 161, 8. George Washington 185, 9. Greenbrier East 244, 10. Braxton County 265, 11. Princeton 282; several other teams had incomplete squads
High school boys top 25 finishers
1. Jacob Dowdy (SS) 16:38.7, 2. Aiden Kneeland (WW) 16:39.2, 3. A.J. Skeens (S) 17:44.8, 4. Trey Stanley (Rich.) 17:49.5, 5. Jaedan Holstein (SS) 18:48.1, 6. Braden Ward (PV) 18:50.4, 7. Skylar Hudnall (Riv.) 18:55.4, 8. Ryan Bazzle (GW) 18:59.3, 9. Christian Saffouri (WW) 19:07.7, 10. Josh Cormack (WW) 19:19.5, 11. Austin Bias (OH) 19:22.4, 12. Sam Jordan (SS) 19:32.1, 13. Robert Shirey (WW) 19:37.3, 14. Noah Endres (SA) 19:50.8, 15. Jonah Morgan (WW) 19:55.7, 16. Eli Northrop (SS) 19:58.0, 17. Charles Melvin (Riv.) 19:59.7, 18. Isaac Collins (CC) 20:03.7, 19. Jacob Ellison (WE) 20:07.9, 20. Josiah Lavender (SA) 20:09.0, 21. Connor Cormack (WW) 20:15.7, 22. Josh Simons (WC) 20:17.3, 23. Nate Cook (PV) 20:39.6, 24. Zane Carothers (SS) 20:41.1, 25. Eli Jordan (SS) 20:46.9
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