PARKERSBURG - The Battle for Parkersburg cross country race, set to take place at 6 p.m. Friday inside and outside the Erickson All-Sports Facility, will produce a pair of new individual champions this year.
Runners from host Parkersburg South and rival Parkersburg will compete against each other prior to the start of the annual battle for Wood County bragging rights football game.
Both the Big Reds and Patriots have tasted victory in this dual the past two seasons. PHS waltzed away with a 35-81 win last year at Stadium Field with the help of individual victories from then seniors Madison Hill and Josh Harmon. However, the last time the EASF acted as the host site the Patriots scored a 52-59 triumph versus the red and white.
Photo by Tresa Taylor
Parkersburg South junior April Kirk won the Battle for Parkersburg two years ago and finished as the runner-up last fall.
"He's absolutely loaded," PSHS head coach Steve Fox said of Big Red head man Larry Games. "This may be, for him, the best year he's had boys and girls collectively for a dual meet. They are that good."
Thus far into the campaign the PHS cross country squads have been ranked in the top 10 of the best Class AAA programs in the Mountain State. Although the Big Reds are expected to repeat as champions come Friday evening, coach Games knows better than to underestimate the Patriots.
"Two years ago it (the weather) was pretty miserable," Games recalled. "It's going to be nice this week we hope. We'll start on the track and finish on the track, running a lap at the beginning and a lap at the end.
2011 Battle for Parkersburg
Parkersburg boys: Nick Musgrave, Sean Snider, Anthony Kist, Brandin Wharton, Brice Games, John Bolton, Nic Cheuvront, Brandon McIntire, Andrew Lyons, Logan Dudley, Tyler Stockdale, Elliott Clark, Matt McCollum, Tommy Hudkins, Drew Stone, Alex Baumgartner, Tyler Morris, Joey Cremeans, Casey Kerns, Brady Guinn, Jericho Norris, Ryan Cunningham, Levi Casto
Parkersburg South boys: Ronnie Barker, Garret Lynch, Tylor Brown, Derek Dillon, Dakota Robinson, Evan Clark, Kyle Sams, Sebastian Thalheim, Kody Leasure, Jacob Giffin, Alex Kirk
Parkersburg girls: Kaylee Williams, Rachel Morris, Jordan Waters, Alena Klimas, Jennifer Parsons, Alyssa Skidmore, JD White, Emily Collins, Swathi Mukkamala, Beth Hall, Brooke McVaney, Lakyn Mayo, Havenn Burton, Kaileen Terrell, Kacy Harmon, Hannah Hickman, Katy Barr, Katie Collins, Libby Pence
Parkersburg South girls: April Kirk, Natasha Kirk, Rachel Teter, Serrena Morris, Kayla McMahan, Maranda Davis, Kayleigh Jenkins, Alexa Anderson
"It's like anything else. It's a big rivalry. It doesn't really matter what kind of year everyone has had. We have to take care of business and have to go over there and run well."
Exactly which boy and which girl will cross the finish line first is up for debate, but both divisions feature a few possibilities.
Parkersburg South junior April Kirk, who was the runner-up to Hill last fall, will be looking for her second career win in this dual after posting a victorious effort as a freshman. The Big Reds' most likely challengers for the individual crown will come from either junior Kaylee Williams or 10th-grader Rachel Morris.
"Kaylee has been our first girl in every meet and Rachel has been our second at every meet," Games noted. "I kind of feel like it's going to come down to Kaylee and April Kirk, I would think."
Coach Fox is in the same predicament as last year since the Patriots have their Ohio Valley Athletic Conference meet early Saturday morning at Meadowbrook High School in Ohio.
"We did this last year and they weren't as competitive as I thought they should've been and the next Saturday morning, less than 12 hours later, we turned around and all five of my boys had the fastest time of the year and we won the conference," Fox stated. "Go figure that one out."
Patriot seniors Ronnie Barker and Garret Lynch will be challenged by the Big Red trio of junior Nick Musgrave and sophomores Sean Snider and Anthony Kist. Although Lynch was eighth last season while Musgrave, Snider and Kist finished second through fourth, respectively, Lynch is a two-time runner-up in the city dual.
"I would think the winner would come out of one of those five I would guess," Games said. "They (Barker and Lynch) are both seniors and I'm sure they will be highly motivated to do well."
The teams will spend some time together this evening as they converge on John Lemon's farm.
"Lemon Tractor Supplies is having a cookout for us with a bonfire and a hay ride," Fox added of the traditional gathering. "We train out there a couple times a week."
As far as coach Fox is concerned about the girls race he thinks, "at least three female runners will be on that track at the same time. There will be two PHS girls and April. Where they finish on the finish line I can't tell you. We'll see how they feel.
"Our boys are competitive and I think they will give anybody a hard run. They will go out and run their best Friday night. Fans should come out early and enjoy the finish to a cross country race. It's something people should come see."