West Fairmont swim

West Fairmont's girls' swim team celebrates its first state championship back in February at the WVU Natatorium.

It was a banner year for high school sports in Marion County during the 2005-06 season, more so than in the previous few years.

There were pleasant surprises. There were your usual suspects. And as always, there were plenty of state champions crowned yet again.

What better place to start than with those athletes and teams who finished on top of the podium.

And when talking about the county’s state championships, one must first turn to the swimming pool. That’s where West Fairmont’s boys’ and girls’ squads swept the state swimming championships in Morgantown. Steve and Susan Sandor have guided the Polar Bears to four titles in the last three years. The girls’ team earned its first championship, while the boys’ team dominated en route to an eighth straight title.

Moving out of the pool to the trails, a freshman proved to be the guy to beat at the state cross country meet in Mineral Wells. David Ciarolla took his first season at the high school level in stride, so much so that he ran away from his competition to capture the Class AAA individual crown by three seconds. Will a second, third or fourth title follow in the coming years?

On the girls’ side, North Marion’s Keri Bland made the transition from volleyball to cross country after her sophomore year and flourished. Bland, who thrives on competition, won back-to-back AAA titles as a junior and senior in convincing fashion during her only years running cross country.

Turning to the mat, East Fairmont’s wrestling team enjoyed a record-breaking season with 20 dual victories, NCAC and regional championships and a fourth-place finish at the AAA state tournament. And to top things off, sophomore Morgan Murphy was crowned the 189-pound champion with a 5-4 decision over Parkersburg’s Matt Lindamood. Three more Bees placed runner-up, while 11 other county grapplers placed in the consolation (third through sixth).

West’s soccer program took a giant step in its progress by qualifying both the boys’ and girls’ team to the state tournament in Beckley. The girls bowed out in the semifinals to eventual champion and rival Elkins, while the boys’ title hopes were dashed by Parkersburg in the championship match.

First-year coach J.L. Abbott directed the Polar Bear football team back to the state playoffs for the first time since 2000. Even though West fell in the first round to unbeaten Jefferson, Abbott and Co. accomplished their goals in his first season. Expectations are even higher this fall.

On the hardwood, West’s girls’ basketball team advanced to the state quarterfinals for the third straight season under new coach Meredith Anderson. Meanwhile, David Retton led the Polar Bear boys’ team on an improbable run to the state quarters where they ran into two-time AAA champion Huntington.

It was no surprise to see West’s baseball team back in the state semis for a fourth straight spring. But Steve Naternicola is still in search of that first championship to go along with four runner-up trophies.

On a smaller diamond, East’s softball team returned to the state tournament and ran into a youth movement called the Spring Valley Timberwolves en route to the AAA runner-up plaque.

In track and field, the county was represented well by such names as West’s Jerry Kelly and Valarie Jasper, East’s Travis Hamrick and Lindsey Mills, and North Marion’s Danielle Perkins, who will continue her high-jumping ways at West Virginia Wesleyan.

Success even found its way to the tennis court, where West’s Brett Parker and Greg Wilmoth, East’s Monique Burton and others advanced to the state championships.

With the 2006-07 season literally right around the corner following the third and final week of summer workouts, this past year’s high school sports season in the county will be one hard act to follow.

Or will it?

Hopefully, I will stand corrected at this time next June.

E-mail Andrew Manzo at dmanzo@timeswv.com.

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