FAIRMONT — Marion County track athletes will face their final hurdle to get to the state meet today when they travel to Ritchie County for the Class AA, Region I meet beginning at 4 p.m.
A total of 16 athletes from across the state will move on from each event— three from each region, plus the next four fastest times.
But the path to Charleston certainly won’t be easy, especially in what is arguably the most difficult of the four regions.
“If I had to look at the different regions, I’d have to say that ours has the most competition,” said Fairmont Senior boys’ coach Ken Scherich.
He has a point.
Runwv.com ranks track teams across the state using an analytical process that compiles results from meets throughout the season. According to its rankings, six of West Virginia’s top 10 boys’ track teams reside in Region I— No. 1 Ritchie County, No. 2 Roane County, No. 6 Fairmont Senior, No. 7 Weir and No. 10 Webster County.
By comparison, Region II has three ranked teams (No. 3 Keyser, No. 4 Bridgeport and No. 9 Grafton), Region IV has just one ranked team (No. 5 Poca) and Region III has zero — yes, zero — ranked teams.
“It's a very tough region,” said East Fairmont boys’ track coach Ken Hibbs. “I was looking at the best performances today. In most events, in the top 10 there are four — sometimes more— from our region, which tells you how strong our region is.”
A study of the girls’ competition yields similar results. Region I boasts four ranked teams, Region II and Region IV have three and Region III again has no ranked teams.
While those numbers are a bit closer than on the boys’ side, Region I holds three of the top four teams — No. 2 Oak Glen, No. 3 North Marion and No. 4 Ritchie.
North Marion girls’ track coach Jeff Crane recognizes that the competition will be tight in the region, but sees the positives in it.
He points out that although it will be difficult to be one of the top three automatic qualifiers, the competition will help his runners grab one of the four spots that are determined by times.
“Being in this region we have a good opportunity,” he said. “We're running against quality people at the regional meet. Chances are our times are going to be good enough to qualify.”
It’s also worth pointing out that if Region I competitors can qualify for the state meet, they stand a better shot at placing because they’ve already beaten some of the top competition.
“If you look at our region and how it translates to the state meet, usually the teams that come out of our region are in the top three, four, five in the state,” Scherich said.
Again, he’s got a point.
The top four boys’ teams came from Region I — No. 1 Ritchie, No. 2 Roane, No. 3 Fairmont Senior and No. 4 Weir.
The girls’ side was closer, with Region I and Region II each having four top-10 teams in 2013. Region II did, however, have the top three teams — No. 1 Frankfort, No. 2 Bridgeport and No. 3 Keyser.
That could change this year with Frankfort out of the top 10 rankings and with North Marion and Oak Glen in the top three.
But it all starts today with the Region I meet.
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.