FAIRMONT — Local prep cross country fans got what may turn out to be a preview of the Class A/AA Boys’ State Championship race on Saturday at the Times Invitational at Apple Valley Country Club in Fairmont.
Fairmont Senior senior Ethan Kincell and Doddridge junior Carter Lipscomb sit first and second respectively in the latest RunWV Class A/AA Runner Rankings and are expected by many to be favorites to capture the individual crown in Ona at the state meet later this month. The pair met on the course at Apple Valley, pacing the pack from the start in a neck-and-neck 3.1-mile duel.
The pair were side-by-side as they came down the final hill overlooking the finish line, but Kincell was able to outkick his younger opponent in a strong final stretch of the race to secure a first-place finish in 16:17.68.
“I just started pushing and I kicked it in. I knew the race was about to come to an end, and I had to find a way to push ahead if I wanted to win,” Kincell said.
“Ethan still wasn’t happy with it - he said he didn’t feel good today but if he’s winning on his bad days, it’s a good sign. We’ve been seeing Carter for three years now and there is always some prestige in beating a runner that good. I think that’s going to be the battle for the individual title this year - I personally enjoy watching it, but I do like one that’s a bit more decisive for my nerves,” added Fairmont Senior boys’ head coach Dayton McVicker.
Kincell said races between the two foes often come down to who can dig the deepest and find a better kick in the final few hundred meters of action - luckily for Kincell, his training thus far put him in position for it to be him Saturday.
“I came in wanting to do the same thing I’ve done all season when I see him, which is running with him the whole time, going off each other, and hoping that I can pull away in the end,” he said.
Kincell was joined in the top-five by teammates junior Logan Zuchelli in third (16:51.77) and junior Tyler Hayes in fifth (17:24.98). The Polar Bears earned the first-place team award with their performance as a group - they hope to use the momentum to keep running strong as they look to earn a Big 10 Championship in two weeks and defend their 2018 Class A/AA team title.
“We’ve all been working hard headed towards the post-season. We really want to repeat, and we’re doing our best to get to that point,” Kincell said.
“There were only one or two spots we left out there we could have had, and our four and five runners ran really well today which is something we’ve been trying to focus on,” added McVicker.
It was a showdown between cross-town rivals on Saturday during the girls’ varsity race at the Times Invitational - in the end East Fairmont junior Erykah Christopher (20:02.15) edged out Fairmont Senior senior Carlina Jacquez (20:37.10) to nab the individual win.
“I’m really happy with how I did, and the weather was really nice. I just wanted to run controlled today, and I think I did that,” Christopher said.
“Erykah is really strong, and she has a great kick. Hopefully, by the end of the season I’ll be there with her, but it’s just a matter of time,” Jacquez added.
Christopher credits her strong finish and 30-plus second margin of victory to being able to better manage her race, as she felt more mentally and physically prepared to end the race on a high note.
“Towards the beginning of the season I was all over the place with my pace and wasn’t running controlled at all. Lately, I’ve been focusing on that, and I think that it will help me maintain my speed while not getting tired by the end of the race,” she said.
Fairmont Senior nabbed the overall team victory on the girls’ side as well, with senior Mackenzie Stanley crossing the line in third-place (20:47.80).
“We really enjoy putting on this race, and we knew coming in we had the ability to win. We just tried to keep positive mindsets during the race - negativity is our worst enemy on this team, and we want to keep it uplifting,” Jacquez said.