Smiles abound for state champs

CHARLESTON – JoJo Rice couldn’t wipe the smile from his face.

“This is unbelievable,” he said on more than one occasion.

At the same time, teammates Cole Slates, Clarence Bennett, Nate Masters and Kenny Muhart were also wearing huge grins.

Yet, the same could be said for Oak Glen’s Alex Burch, Megan Collins, Christen Mangano and Alex Arnott, Weirton Madonna’s Gianna Anile, Chloe Conner, Cameron Dowiak and Hannah Bargar, Weir’s Alexis Virtue, Kristen Mastrantoni, Chantelle Harper and Stephanie Pennacchio, along the Golden Bears’ Micah Swiger.

They are all now called state champs.

Of the 18 state champions from the trio of schools, a dozen will return next year seeking the same fate, the same smile, the same pose atop the podium.

Burch, Collins, Mastrantoni, Virtue, Masters and Muhart all graduate.

“This is a great feeling,” said Burch, who finished her career with four state titles.

The other five agreed.

Burch also finished second in the 200, 400 and sixth in the 100.

“Today was a day of ups and downs,” she said Saturday. “I let it all out, got mad for a second, and then got happy again. I had more races to come and I couldn’t let that affect me. I had to get over it.”

The half-dozen seniors left Laidley Field at the University of Charleston with that coveted possession – a gold medal.

And, that piece of jewelry is never guaranteed.

Two days in Charelston proved that once again.

“We’re still kind of surprised to win it because at state meets, you never know what’s going to happen,” Masters said.


He is right.

No one in the audience expected to see Cabell-Midland standout Jacob Burcham lose in the Class AAA 800.

No one really expected Capital freshman Tristan Slater to raise his personal best by a foot to win the Class AAA crown at 14-feet-6, which is also two feet higher than his mark in the regional meet the week before.

There were highs, lows, tears of sadness and tears of joy.

Yes, a typical track meet.

Burch owned a huge smile as she crossed the line in the 4×400 and it was about the accomplishment.

“We worked really hard for this,” she said.

For Slates, his three state titles came from left field.

He partnered with Rice, Masters and Bennett to win the 4×200, with Rice, Muhart and Bennett to claim the 4×100 and he won the 200.

Those five led the Red Riders to 46 points, which tied for third with Fairmont Senior. Roane County was second with 50 points. Ritchie County led the way with 67.

Rice placed second in the 100 (11.35) and Slates second in the 400 (51.37). Bennett was eighth in the 200 (23.99).

For Slates, the two days was not bad for a kid who started running track in the eighth grade because mom told him to go pick a sport.

And, that sport is paying dividends.

For one, he admitted that he never knew track could be this much fun.

“No, I didn’t,” he said. “Plus, everyone’s so nice. Everyone pulls for each other. No one wants to see anyone do badly. People help each other up. This is an amazing experience.”

For the ladies, the Oak Glen and Madonna quartets won their respective 4×400 races and the Red Riders the 4×800.

Swiger captured the long jump.

Anile, Harper, Bennett and Slates are juniors.

Mangano, Dowiak, Bargar, Swiger and Rice are sophomores.

Arnott, Conner and Pennacchio are freshmen.

Top eight finishers in girls Class AA were:

Oak Glen:

Mangano, Arnott, Felicity Holder and Kelsey Chambers (4×800, 9:51.01, 2nd).

McKenzie Jones, Natelie Chappell, Arnott and Collins (4×200, 1:50.15, 4th).

Tori Feicht, Marissa Nolder, Kayla Swiger and Megan Nally (shuttles, 1:09.46, 3rd).

Feicht (100 hurdles, 17.71, 8th), Collins (400, 1:01.36, 7th), Chambers (800, 2:27.25, 4th; 1600, 5:25.29, 4th; 3200, 11:52.36, 5th), Nolder (800, 2:29.41, 6th), Kaleena Crane (high jump, 4-10, 5th), Emmy Delekta (discus, 97-9, 5th) and Bridget Bemis (discus, 96-1, 6th).

Weir, which finished sixth with 35 points:

Raven Young, Shelva Burns, Alesia LeSane and Harper (4×400, 4:18.48, 5th).

Kylee Leathers, Burns, Young and Harper (4×200, 1:50.09, 2nd).

Virtue, Megan Longwell, Young and Gracen Hayes (shuttles, 1:09.89, 7th).

Young, Alyssa Shingle, Burns and Leathers (4×100, 52.35, 6th).

Virtue (1600, 5:23.00, 3rd; 300 hurdles, 48.89, 8th), Leathers in the 100 (13.47, 8th) and Mastrantoni (3200, 11:41.39, 3rd; 1600, 5:29.80, 5th).

Top eight finishers in boys Class AA were:

Oak Glen:

Swiger, Chris Bailey, Clayton Flowers and David Campbell (4×100, 44.65, 2nd).

Chris Burnham, Bailey, Randy Holloway and Campbell (4×200, 1:34.98, 6th).

Cody Tropeck, Ethan Malcomb, Eric Oliver and Brock Smith (4×800, 8:35.54, 7th).

Flowers, Tanner Gorby, Burnham and Kyle Mack (shuttles, 1:02.30, 4th).

Zack Staley (discus, 135-1, 6th) and Jeff Stivason (discus, 124-2, 8th).

For Madonna:

Makenna Dziatkowicz, Conner, Anile and Francesca Basil (4×200, 1:53.43, 3rd).

Bargar, Dowiak, Gaby Kotten and Shelby Kirk (4×800, 10:51.57, 8th).

Dziatkowicz, Dowiak, Tessie Tokash and Basil (shuttles, 1:12.77, 7th).

Taylor Pavan (discus, 101-7, 3rd; shot put, 29-8, 7th).

Eliott Nero, Garrett Hypes, Gabe Hypes and Marquise Jeter (4×100, 46.13, 5th) and Marcello Biondillo (long jump, 20-0, 5th).