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HHS, Midland ready to race again

May. 16, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington High's shuttle hurdle relay team enters the West Virginia High School Track Championships with the second-best Class AAA boys time in the Mountain State.

Guess who's No. 1? Cabell Midland. That sets up a potential showdown between the Cabell County rivals Friday night in the finals at Laidley Field in Charleston.

"Make sure we've got everything down and be ready to give it our best," Huntington's Ryan Gatrell said.

Cabell Midland prevailed in the Region IV meet. The Knights ran 57.91 seconds to 58.63 for the Highlanders. Those are the two best times in the state.

Senior Payton Johnson leads off for the Highlanders. Zack Adkins is next followed by Ryan McGuffin and Ryan Gatrell is the anchor. Those three runners are just freshmen.

"Run as hard as we can and I try to bring it home," Gatrell said. "We know Cabell Midland has a good team."

Gatrell also qualified in the 110 hurdles and high jump. He turned in a 14.97 hurdles time in the regional, good for second. The winner. ... you guessed it. ... was Cabell Midland's Nate Moore (14.60). Those were the state's fastest qualifying times.

ln the high jump, Gatrell cleared a personal-best 6-feet in the regional to take second. He made that height on his third attempt. He came close at 6-2.

"I'd been in a slump," Gatrell said of his performances leading up to the regional.

That was quite evident at the Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays held April 26-27 at Laidley Field. Gatrell had a no-height effort.

"My steps were messed up and I didn't make it," Gatrell said.

Since then, Gatrell made necessary adjustments and he's been going higher on a consistent basis.

"My steps got better and it got warmer," Gatrell said. "I jump better when it's warm."

Gatrell will make his first state appearance in the high jump. Rankings indicate he's one of the underdogs, but placing high is possible. Jordan Hardiman from Jefferson has cleared 6-10.

"Going in I feel good," said Gatrell, whose personal best in middle school was 5-10. "So much is mental. You need everything to go right."

Bryce Jones from Huntington High qualified for the 100 (11.52) and as the 200 regional winner (23.32).

The Highlanders also have Sam Smith in the 800, Jack McGee running the 3200 and Andrew Ching in the pole vault along with their 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays.

Safiyyah Mitchell (200, long jump), Morgan Hensley (100 hurdles, long jump) and Ericka Budd (shot put, discus) lead the girls state entries from Huntington High.

Maggie Lafear is in the pole vault while the Highlander girls also have their 4x100, 4x200 and shuttle hurdle relays.