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St. Marys runner expected to repeat

Oct. 25, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

ONA -- One of West Virginia's top female distance runners in history closes out her Mountain State cross country career Saturday in the state meet at Cabell Mkdland.

Maggie Drazba from St. Marys High School goes for her second straight Class AA-A girls title and third overall on a course she knows well. Back on Sept. 1, the senior handled the heat and ran away from the field in the GEICO Classic, winning in a meet-record time of 18:30.22.

"My goal is to come back and do this again in the state," Drazba said after the GEICO meet.

As expected, Drazba comes in as the favorite. She won the Region I title with a time of 19:34.33. All other regional champs finished in 20-minutes plus, led by Katie Jan of Frankfort in Region II with a time of 20:27.20.

"She's had quite a career," Cabell Midland coach Chris Parsons said about Drazba.

Drazba's big senior moment was Sept. 29 at the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C. Competing against many of the top runners in the country, Drazba went to the front midway through 5K race and won in a personal-best 17:27.9. She held off Hannah Long of Eureka, Mo.

"That shows you what she can do," Parsons said.

By the way, the 5-foot-1, 96-pound Drazba, 17, has not lost a race this fall.

As a freshman, Drazba won the Class AA-A race and there was talk of a four-time champion. The four-peat dream got derailed in 2010 as she finished third, 70 seconds behind the winner. She then decided to intensify her training and she hooked up with Jonathan Wright, an attorney in Morgantown and girls coach with the West Virginia Flyers running team.

"We don't train stupidly," Drazba told Marc Bloom for a Running Times Magazine online story Oct. 3 when Drazba was named as the High School Athlete of the Week.

Glenda Cottrill coaches boys and girls cross country at St. Marys as well as the middle school program. Drazba started running in seventh grade.

"We knew Maggie was going to be special even then," Cottrill told Bloom.

Saturday's race won't be the end for Drazba. She hopes to qualify for the Foot Locker finals and needs a top-10 finish in the South Regional on Nov. 24 in Charlotte. She finished 13th in the regional a year ago.

Come spring, Drazba will be back on the track as she's a force in the Mountain State in the 800, 1600 and 3200. The past two years, she swept the three events at the state meet in Charleston.

In the battle for team supremacy, Philip Barbour held the top spot and Frankfort is No. 2 in Class AA-A girls in the most recent RunWV power rankings. In Class AAA, Morgantown has a big lead over No. 2 Hurricane. However, Tori Dent of Hurricane should challenge for the individual title as she won the Region IV race in 18:47.90. That was the top regional time with University's Amelia Paladino right there at 18:48.

All qualifiers get practice time on the course Friday.