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Grafton-Doddridge showdown looming

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

At nearly every meet they're at, they always seem to become the subplot of the event, taking center stage.

Over the past two seasons, they've become well aware of each other. Doddridge County and Grafton have forged a rivalry as good as any in the state. Adding more intrigue is the fact that the two teams go into this week's regional ranked No. 1 and 2 in the state in Class AA-A.

Both will go head to head Friday at the Region 2 championship at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

"It's definitely going to be an interesting region," Grafton coach Paul Martin said. "I don't think there's any doubt there's a rivalry here, but I think the polls are pretty accurate. Right now (Doddridge County) is the better team.

"They score well in small meets and large meets, but the state meet is something entirely different. You can never predict what's going to happen down there."

What should happen is a tough, down to the wire race. The Bulldogs are loaded in the pole vault with two girls who have cleared 8-feet, 9 inches. Their relay teams have consistently posted top times all season.

Grafton counters with dominating distance runners in Sherri Flohr and Heather McDaniel, the solid all-around performance of Ginny Keener and a 4x800 relay team with a state-best time of 9:59.43.

"I think both programs respect each other," Doddridge County coach Craig Kellar said. "They're doing some pretty good things this season and if you look at what they did in cross-country, I think they've built a pretty strong tradition.

"We feel like we've got some decided advantages in some areas and they have some in others. I think we can load up on some events a little better, but wherever coach Martin decides (to load) up, we can, too."

One advantage the Bulldogs do have is in their location. Doddridge County participates in the Little Kanawha Conference with programs such as Williamstown, Ritchie County and Roane, making it arguably one of the most competitive conferences in the state.

Twice this season Grafton has went head to head with Doddridge County with the Bulldogs coming out on top both times.

Doddridge "is the team everyone is looking up at...there's no doubt about that," Martin said. "We know they're the team to beat, but it's definitely doable. The key for us is for someone to break up those relay teams"

Something easier said than done. At one point this season, Doddridge County owned the four of the five top relay times in the state.

"We're not real concerned if we get the most points at the regional, and I'm sure coach Martin feels the same way," Kellar said. "What we want to do is get the key people and our relay teams to Charleston. If we win at the regionals than that's fine, but it's not the biggest thing. We want to be in a good position at the state meet and from there, let the chips fall where they may."

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444.

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