MORGANTOWN — Athletes representing Buckhannon-Upshur High School Track Team had quite the showing last Tuesday, May 12 in the Class AAA Region I meet at Mylan Park in Morgantown, with several individuals and relay teams punching their ticket to the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field for the West Virginia State Track Meet this coming Friday and Saturday, May 21 and 22. Both teams found a great deal of success against what many have called the strongest, most competitive region in West Virginia high school athletics.
In the 100-meter hurdles, junior Chloe Cale took third in the finals, clearing the 33 inch obstacles in her path in just 16.94 seconds, after placing second in the preliminary qualifiers with a time of 17.05 seconds.
Junior Dezi Pugh scored the win in the 300-meter hurdles, pacing the field with a time of just 46.47 seconds.
In the 4x200-meter relay, Pugh, Cale teamed with seniors Catherine Oliveto and Cameron Zuliani to capture a third-place finish with a combined time of 1:48.63, qualifying for the state meet.
In the 4x400-meter relay event, the team of Pugh, Oliveto, Zuliani and freshman Samantha Shreve combined to post a time of 4:15.16, good enough for a fourth-place finish.
In the 4x800-meter relay, the team consisting of Shreve, sophomore Miah Reger, sophomore Mia Sappey and junior Ashley Caitlin finished fifth, with a combined time of 10:52.03.
In the 4x102.5-meter shuttle hurdle event, Oliveto, Pugh, Zuliani and Cale, brought home the events second win for the Lady Bucs. The foursome collectively posted a time of 1:08.86 to seal the victory and qualify for states in dominate fashion.
In somewhat of an upset, for one of the few times in 2022, Cale did not bring home the top honors in the long jump. The junior long jump specialist’s best attempt of 16’ 9” was bested by University senior Sierra Lanham, who jumped 18’ 5” to secure the upset. Despite the loss, Cale still qualifies for states in her signature event and will certainly be a threat to take home state champion honors this coming weekend.
Zuliani stole the show in the discus toss, with her throw that traveled 119’ 10” being more than enough to secure the win. Zuliani’s region-winning mark bested second-place finisher Preston County’s Sierra Davis’ throw of 116’ 2” by over a full three feet to round out the list of the top performing Lady Buccaneers in the Class AAA, Region I meet at Mylan Park. By the end of the day’s competition, eight Lady Bucs qualified for the state meet.
Coach Jackie Zuliani took a minute to express her thoughts on her team’s regional performance and talk about what to expect this coming Saturday, saying, “I was very excited about how the girls have progressed. They had a great regional meet and seem to be primed and ready for the start of the state championships. If everyone leaves it all on the track and has no doubts and face it their all, we can’t ask for anything more. We are going in with some nice qualifying positions, we just need to finish!
Zuliani also stated how the weather conditions surrounding the state meet could impact the field, saying, “It is shaping up be a hot one. The predicted temperature for Friday is 95 degrees but will be well above that on the track. We haven’t had any weather close to that this season, so hopefully the girls will adjust and not allow the weather to hinder their performance. I love this meet and watching the best athletes from around the state compete!”
On the boy’s side of the competition, junior Taiwo Babawale-Thropp got things started off with a third-place finish in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.52 seconds in the final. Although Thropp’s time was fairly consistent, he did run slightly faster in qualifying, posting a time of 22.45 seconds to capture a second-place finish in the preliminary qualifying round.
A pair of Bucs paced the field in the 400-meter dash, with junior Shawn Blandino’s time of 50.46 seconds narrowly edging out senior Sterlin Thropp’s time of 50.48 in a thrilling photo-finish. Both Thropp and Blandino are poised to be among the strongest competitors in the field for the 400-meter dash in the state meet.
In the 800-meter run, junior Jordan Gillum posted one of the fastest times the state has ever seen, crossing the finish line in just 1:54.01. Despite his blazing fast time, University senior Larry Josh Edwards finished just ahead of Gillum with a time of 1:53.46 to take first-place. Despite the loss, Gillum will still have a chance to compete for a state championship, as he easily qualified for the states’ field.
In the 110-meter hurdles, freshman Carter Zuliani cleared the 39 inch obstacles in just 16.84 seconds to take third-place and punch his ticket to states. In the 300-meter hurdles, junior Reis Leonard cleared the 36 inch obstacles in just 42.61 seconds to capture third-place and a bid to the state meet. Fellow junior Dalton Crites also took fourth-place honors in the shot put event, with his best toss traveling 41’ 8.5”.
Junior Landen Zirkle narrowly missed out on a trip to states, finishing third-place in the pole vault, after successfully clearing 9’ on his best attempt of the evening. Finally, Zuliani and sophomore Dirk Riley both turned in strong showings in the discus throw event, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. Zuliani’s throw of 126’ 4” beat out Riley’s throw of 124’ 6”, as the two battled for position on the podium. The pair of strong finishes from Zuliani and Riley wrap up the list of top individual performers for the Bucs.
The Bucs shined in the relay portion of the Class AAA; Region I meet. The 4x100-meter relay team got things started with a strong second-place finish, as the foursome of Thropp, Babawale-Thropp, Blandino and senior Camden Snyder posted a time of 44.29 seconds just barely missed out on collecting the win.
The Bucs kept the positive momentum rolling into the 4x200-meter relay, as the Bucs picked up their first relay and second overall win of the meet, as the team of: Thropp, Babawale-Thropp, Snyder, and Blandino again turned in another stellar performance, crossing the finish line in just 1:30.70 to secure the victory. The Bucs stayed hot in the very next event, the 4x400-meter relay, as the combination of senior Julien Larcher, Blandino, Thropp and Gillum collectively posted a blazing time of 3:26.84, coasting to the team’s second consecutive event win.
The Bucs narrowly missed out on collecting their third straight event win in the 4x800-meter relay, as Larcher, Leonardm, Gillum, and freshman Jack Waggy collected a second-place finish with a combined time of 8:16.41.
The 4x110-meter shuttle hurdle team, consisting of freshman Chase Hackett, Leonard, junior Zade Woody and Zuliani posted a combined time of 1:04.29 to bring home a third-place finish, qualify for states, which wraps up the list of the top performing relay pairings for the Bucs at regionals. In total, the team qualified a staggering thirteen athletes for states.
Coach Patty Wager took a moment to offer her thoughts and takeaways from the regional meet as well as look forward to states, saying, “We were so excited as the night progressed at Mylan Park! I expect for very event at states to be very close. Qualifying times in the 400 are so close that three runners are separated by just .100 of a second. Anyone can take that race and we are so blessed to have two athletes that run 50 seconds”
Wager continued, saying “Jordan Gillum’s 800 race will be one of the highlights of the today event. His smoking fast 1:54.01 is truly one of the fastest ever in the state. Look for that time to come down on Friday. All five relays are headed to states and they have unfinished work. School records for broken at regionals and look for them to be broken again Friday.”
Women - AAA - Team Rankings - 18 Events Scored
1) Morgantown HS- 162.50
2) Wheeling Park HS- 111
3) Buckhannon-Upshur HS- 64
4) Preston HS- 61
5) University HS- 57
6) Bridgeport HS- 45
7) John Marshall HS- 40.50
8) Brooke HS- 13
Men - AAA - Team Rankings - 18 Events Scored
1) University HS- 139
2) Morgantown HS- 114
3) Buckhannon-Upshur HS- 103
4) Wheeling Park HS- 87
5) Bridgeport HS- 55
6) John Marshall HS- 35
7) Preston HS- 16
8) Brooke HS- 8