By Stephen Smoot
Small but mighty, Pendleton County High School’s fledgling cross country squad is seeking to make its mark in a strongly competitive Potomac Valley Conference.
Coach Mary Beth Hebb’s harriers have already shown that they are ready to compete this year. Despite many not bringing years of experience in the sport, Hebb notes that her runners have demonstrated significant improvement and expanding confidence. The conference just recently extended its membership to include Pendleton County’s runners.
Leading the team is senior Gage Sites-Woods. As Hebb explains, Sites-Woods’ two years of experience in cross country has bred mental toughness. “He seems confident and knows what he needs to do.” Hebb goes on to say that, “He’s not afraid of competition.” Sites-Woods’ training for marathon running should make him even more competitive in his 5k efforts.
Hebb also expects great results from sophomores Titus Nulph and Thunder Gill. She explains that “Thunder joined track last year, but was hesitant. He fell in love with running and it is his main sport now.” She describes both Nulph and Gill as “very dedicated” and “all in.”
Sawyer Apple and Laney Sites-Woods will compete for the first time in cross country this year. Hebb says that “They are both motivated to stay in shape for track season by doing cross country even though distance running is outside of their comfort zone.”
Pendleton County cannot compete in team standings because of the number of participants, four boys and one girl. They can, however, compete as individuals and can earn spots in the post season. Within the conference, Hebb expects AA Frankfort to pose the largest challenge. They are “well-established, tough competition.” The opposition will also include a tough AA Keyser squad, experienced single A Tucker County, AAA Hampshire, and single A Paw Paw.
Last week, Wildcat runners competed under beautiful sunny skies at the Keyser High School campus. They ran against Keyser, Tucker County, and parts of the dominant Frankfort squad whose most experienced members almost defeated nationally ranked University on the same day. In team standings at Keyser, Frankfort’s boys and Tucker County’s girls excelled.
Though unable to place in the team standings, Pendleton County’s harriers competed hard. Gage Sites-Woods placed an impressive third with a 20:11.1 result in the boys’ 5,000 meter. Nulph placed ninth with a 21:55.4 time. Sawyer Apple placed 24th with a 39:26.6 time. In the girls 5,000 meter, Laney Sites-Woods placed 20th with a 40:44.3 time.
Hebb was pleased with her team’s effort, noting that Gage Sites-Woods’ finish served as “a good place to start.”
The next meet will take place at Frankfort High School at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10.