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Grafton, Doddridge win titles

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

FAIRMONT -- Although the rivalries are still the same, the results were different.

Grafton and Doddridge County once again proved their cross country dominance as teams in North Central West Virginia. Two Liberty runners made strong individual showings.

The Bearcat boys and the Bulldog girls won the Class AA-A, Region II titles Thursday at Apple Valley Golf Course with a combined nine-point margin of victory. In Class AAA, East Fairmont won the boys competition, while Fairmont Senior took the girls side.

Grafton's boys team won with 36 points, and Ritchie County took second with 43 to advance to the state meet Nov. 1 in Mineral Wells. Liberty finished third with 64 points, followed by Doddridge County (100), Lincoln (124) and Bridgeport (148).

Brandon Miles led the Bearcats, placing third overall in 17:29. Todd Duryea (sixth, 18:03), Cody Loughry (10th, 18:43), Don McDougal (11th, 18:57) and D.J. Dawson (15th, 19:18) rounded out the team's scoring.

"We didn't come in expecting to go home regional champs," first-year Grafton coach Eva Robinson said.

Roane County's Justin Bossert won the individual competition, finishing in 17:07. Liberty's Josh Wagner (second, 17:25) and John Natow (fifth, 17:57) also earned individual berths to the state meet by finishing in the top eight.

Wagner finished fifth in last year's regional meet and last week won both the Harrison County and Big 10 titles. As in the conference race, Wagner was again challenged by Miles. The two ran second and third, respectively, for most of the race. On the last leg, Miles briefly passed Wagner but fell back into third place.

Clara Grandt and Jennie Spencer dominated the girls race from start to finish for Doddridge County, but the Bulldogs, with 40 points, barely beat Grafton (42) for the regional title. The Bearcats finished solid from top to bottom.

"You don't get style points or bonus points (for times)," Doddridge County coach Craig Kellar said. "That's what it comes down to -- No. 3, 4 and 5."

Both will advance to the state meet, where the Grafton has won three of the last four state titles. Ritchie County (59 points) finished third, followed by Philip Barbour (86) and Bridgeport (127).

Doddridge County finished third last year and failed to qualify for the state meet.

Grandt repeated as the individual regional champion, finishing in 19:48, and Spencer came in second (20:18) with a 52-second gap between third-place Sarah Rosier of Grafton (21:10).

Erika Rucker was fourth (21:12) for the Bearcats, with Nicole Tingler eighth (21:46), Natasha Sheme ninth (21:52) and Valerie Wood 18th (23:30). Carrie Zickefoose (10th, 21:57), Alice Beck (13th, 22:33) and Valerie Hyde (14th, 22:44) rounded out the Bulldogs scoring.

"It wasn't really up to our first and second runners," Grandt said. "It was our middle runners."

Philip Barbour's Alexa Jennings (seventh, 21:38) and Ritchie County's Tina Watson (fifth, 21:16) and Jamie Cokeley (sixth, 21:33) also qualified for the state meet individually. But despite their five runners finishing in the top 20, the Rebels missed the cut for the state meet, just as the Bulldogs did last year.

East Fairmont (21 points) and North Marion (60) advance to the state meet in AAA boys. Elkins finished third with 90 points, followed by Buckhannon-Upshur (92), Fairmont Senior (117) and Robert C. Byrd.

The Bees took four of the top five individual spots, led by champion Mathias Hickman (17:30). Wayne Fasig (sixth, 18:06) and Troy Higgins (eighth, 18:21) of Elkins and Buckhannon-Upshur's Andrew Esquer (seventh, 18:17) also qualified for the state meet. Andrew Skidmore was Robert C. Byrd's top runner, finishing in 14th (18:59).

Fairmont Senior (24 points) and Elkins (40) advance to the AAA girls state meet. East Fairmont finished third with 72 points, followed by North Marion (117), Buckhannon-Upshur (135) and Robert C. Byrd (140).

The Polar Bears took five of the top eight spots, led by champion Emily Corley, who finished in 20:36. Heather Saffel (second, 21:08) and Chelsea Metheny (fourth, 21:54) of Elkins also qualified for the state meet. Erin Swiger was Robert C. Byrd's top runner, finishing in 16th (22:59).

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at rpeirce@exponent-telegram.com.