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Girls cross country runners complete a lap on the track during a morning practice on Aug. 25 at Wayne High School. After a week away from competition, the Pioneers will return to the course this weekend.

ONA — Wayne High schools boys and girls cross-country teams are once again preparing for competition on the heels of a strong opening season performance at the St. Mary’s Cross-Country Festival held at Cabell Midland High School.

“We had some really strong runs from both teams at Midland against the strongest field of teams that will be assembled all year,” head coach Jeanette Rutherford said.

“Both number one teams in class AA and A were there along with four out of the top six AAA teams in the state, so the competition was the strongest we’ll see all year. I was proud of how strong our upper classman ran but our freshman were outstanding for their first high school meet.”

Junior Emily Williamson finished sixth overall while her freshman sister Olivia Williamson finished 11th. Freshman Laura Queen ran to a 32nd place finish followed by Haley Wallace (51), Olivia Queen (59) and Kat Dean (64).

“All the girls ran extremely well but we we’re now at the level where we have to continue to improve each week. Instead of being the hunter we are now the hunted, so the girls know they have to train harder each week” said Rutherford.

On the boys side the brother duo of Chace and Chance Thompson finished in the 15th and 16th spots followed by Freshman Levi Queen (59), Junior Blaine Brumfield (70) and Eli Steele (129).

“The boys really stepped up and ran a strong race. They’ve put in a lot training time since last spring and their hard work produced some fantastic results,” Rutherford added.

In this week’s latest RUNWV class AA rankings Wayne’s women vaulted into to the number two position behind number one and perineal state power Winfield. Elkins, Fairmont Senior and Frankfort round out the top five. In addition, for the first time ever the men’s team cracked the Top 10, landing at number nine with Fairmont Senior and Winfield holding down the top two positions.

Wayne’s next outing will be when they co-host with Huntington High their first ever invitational this Saturday, Sept. 19th at the YMCA Kennedy Center and Robert Newlon Airport in Lesage. Due to COVID-19 and WVSSAC restrictions, the middle school portion of the meet has been moved to Huntington High.

“We’ve put a lot of work into this meet and it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the YMCA and Carl Bailey from the airport and Fly Inn Café,” Rutherford said. “They’ve both really stepped up to help out the kids.”

The field will be quite smaller than initially planned with teams from Kanawha, Putnam and Boone counties unable to participate as they are coded Orange in the state metric. No matter the size of the field, Rutherford said she’s happy her team will be in the mix.

“This meet started out really huge with 22 high school teams from all across West Virginia but now we’re down to about 12 teams. We’re certainly happy to be running but I really don’t think our state leaders fully understand how our young people need athletics as a part of their education. I feel for those counties that can’t compete,” Rutherford said.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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