West Virginia track off and running

CHARLESTON – As expected, the Weir High and Oak Glen girls battled for the 4×800 title and a Golden Bear won the boys long jump.

Unexpected, though, was which Bear stood atop the podium.

The Red Riders foursome of Kristen Mastrantoni, Chantelle Harper, Stephanie Pennacchio and Alexis Virtue held off Oak Glen’s Christen Mangano, Alex Arnott, Felicity Nolder and Kelsey Chambers, 9:53.91 to 9:57.01 (both season bests) to capture Class AA crown at the West Virginia State Track and Field Championships Friday at the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field.

Oak Glen sophomore Micah Swiger leaped a personal best 20-feet-3 to claim the boys long jump crown.

That title was left wide open when favorite Josh Weltner, a Golden Bears senior, went down with a pulled hamstring. He may give it a go today in the 4×100, where Oak Glen has the top time.

“I feel so badly for Josh, being it’s his senior year,” said Swiger. “My goal coming in was to get second right behind Josh. Once he got hurt, I wanted to take it home for him.”

Swiger’s fifth leap was the winning one.

“I just jumped as far as I could,” said Swiger, whose previous best was 19-9. “Once I heard 20, I was just ecstatic. I couldn’t help it.

“This is pretty special.”

It was also pretty special for the Weir girls, two of whom – Mastrantoni and Virtue – were state champs in the event as freshmen and sophomores and missed out a year ago.

Mastrantoni was the lead leg.

“My coaches wanted me to go out in a good pace, but stay behind one person and the last lap, kick it,” said Mastrantoni, who later finished third in the 3200 in 11:41.39. “But, when I cut in (after the first 100) I was out by myself. I tried to go out from the beginning and keep it up.

“At the third turn, one of the girls started to catch up to me and I just got really angry. It’s like the first time ever, I got really angry when I was running.

“I just picked it up and it worked.”

Oak Glen beat Weir at OVACs and the Red Riders returned the favor at regionals last week.

“I was really nervous at first,” Mastrantoni admitted. “We have a lot of pep talks and all I could think of was ‘what if we don’t get it, we’re going to disappoint everyone.’ But, when we got out on the track, all of that went away.

“At the end with the sprint between Alexis and Kelsey, I got really nervous. When I saw Alexis outsprint her, I got really emotional. I went and grabbed Chantelle and started crying.”

It was a good person to grab because Mastrantoni handed the baton to Harper with a lead.

“I was really calm, but really excited to run with my seniors for the last time,” said Harper, a junior. “The goal was to go out, have fun and whopever wins, wins. We took the victory, finally.

“I’m just excited we won the state title.”

Harper handed to Pennacchio, a freshman, with about a 20-yard lead.

“This is surreal,” she said. “I can’t believe winning a goal medal as a senior.

“I did feel a lot of pressure to keep that position.”

But, with 250 yards to go, that lead was gone.

“I knew I had a lot of work to do and I knew that I had to go as hard as I could.”

She did and handed the stick to Virtue with a lead over Chambers, who later took fifth in the 3200 in 11:52.36.

“Kelsey is a really good competitor and I love running with her because she always pushes me to run as best as I can,” said Virtue. “I just gunned it when I got the baton because I knew she was going to be right behind me.

“As soon as she started to catch up to me, I thought, “Oh, no.’ I just picked up my sprint and hopefully that was going to be good enough to get her at the end.

“I didn’t want her to pass me. If she started to pass me, I had to stay with her because I knew I could out-sprint her at the end. That’s always been my strategy whenever I run, to sprint the last 200 of every race because I know I have it in me.

“To come here and win it again as seniors, the emotions are so high. When I crossed the line I started balling because I knew I had helped my team. We worked so hard to get this.

“It was really emotional for me. I just wanted to do well for my team, my family, my coaches and for myself.”

Also in Class AA:

Oak Glen’s Clayton Flowers, Tanner Gorby, Chris Burnham and Kyle Mack placed fourth in the shuttles at 1:02.3.

The Lady Bears’ Tori Feicht, Marissa Nolder, Kayla Swiger and Megan Nally took third in the shuttles in 1:09.46.

Oak Glen sophomore Emmy Delekta placed fifth in the discus (97-9) and freshman teammate Bridget Bemis was sixth (96-1).

Golden Bears senior Kaleena Crane was fifth in the high jump at 4-10.

Oak Glen’s Alex Burch qualified in the 100 (12.65) and 200 (25.92) behind Frankfort’s Bria Welker.

Feicht qualified in the 100 hurdles (17.25).

Weir freshman Kylee Leathers qualified in the 100 (13.12).

Weir’s JoJo Rice is the top qualifier in the 100 in 11.29.

Teammates Clarence Bennett (23.07) and Cole Slates (23.12) qualified in the 200..

Oak Glen is second in the girls team competition with 21 points. Bridgeport leads with 30 points with Weir High in fourth with 16 points.

Cabell Midland’s Avery Campbell, Mason Dino, Brian Lawhon and Jacob Burcham won the Class AAA 4×800 in a meet record 7:49.84.

St. Marys senior Maggie Drazba won the Class A 3200 in a state-meet record 10:31.83 and lapped everyone in the field.

Field events begin at 9 a.m. today with running to start at 10 a.m.