KINGWOOD – The Buckhannon-Upshur boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams will compete Thursday in the Region I Championships at Preston High School.
Both teams will carry a wave of momentum into the championships as the Lady Bucs are coming off of a Big 10 Conference title in their last race while the Bucs finished runner-up at the conference meet last week.
“I think conference was a huge boost to our confidence on both sides,” stated Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Taylor Stacy. “For the girls, it showed them that they can run right up there with the best of them. Preston edged us out earlier this year at University, so it was nice see our girls have improved over the year just like we wanted. For the boys it showed that they were capable of a lot more than they expected. The boys are ranked right about fourth in our region, but anything can happen come race day.”
Region I boasts some of the top teams in West Virginia and could very well be the toughest Class AAA Region in the entire state.
According to the most recent RunWV.com power rankings, four of the top nine girls’ teams reside in Region I.
Morgantown is the top team in the state, according to the rankings while University is third, Preston is seventh and the Lady Bucs are ninth.
Ten of the top 20 individual Class AAA runners also reside in Region I with Morgantown’s Irene Riggs being the top runner in the state.
The Lady Bucs have two runners ranked in the top 25 in the state as freshman Samantha Shreve is ranked 16th and sophomore Mia Sappey is ranked 24th.
On the boys’ side, the Bucs fall just outside of the top 10 rankings while four Region I teams are ranked as University is No. 1 followed by Wheeling Park in third, Morgantown in sixth and Bridgeport in eighth.
Jordan Gillum is the lone B-U runner ranked in the top 25 in the state, as he is positioned at No. 18.
Just like on the girls’ side, 10 of the top 20 runners in Class AAA boy’s rankings are from Region I teams.
Stacy has high expectations for both teams heading into Thursday’s event despite competing against the best competition the state has to offer.
“I’m expecting both teams to put on a great showing Thursday,” stated Stacy. “We’re peaking at the right time, so that’s a huge plus for us. Ideally, we hope both teams will make it to states, but none of that is guaranteed. I expect that we will compete to the best of our ability and we’ll give the other teams a good run for their money.”
The Bucs and Lady Bucs were not able to run the Preston course this year. They had been scheduled to run it, but that meet was canceled when Preston shut down their athletic teams due to COVID-19 protocols.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to run their course this year,” noted Stacy. “We missed out on our chance when Preston had to go virtual for a few weeks and cancel their meet. It would have been nice to run the course ahead of regionals; it’s a nice advantage, but it’s not a worry for us. We never walk the courses before a race. I always tell my athletes they have to make their minds up ahead of time and decide that they are going to go out there and compete. Worrying about the course only means you aren’t prepared and you’re in the wrong mindset.”
That said, Stacy did say the course favors his two teams to a degree.
“Preston’s course, from my understanding, has a good mix of some rolling hills with some quick flats,” stated Stacy. “It’s essentially an extended version of their Knight Night Relays course. My crew is very strong on hills, so I don’t think they’ll be too much of a worry for us.”
Stacy said the regional championships will be a showcase for all the hard work his two teams have put in this season.
“We’ve been in a great head space this past week, so I’m really looking forward to see the results of Thursday,” concluded Stacy. “These kids have been working really hard since June. Thursday will be the pinnacle of all their training coming together. Let’s go Bucs!”