CHARLESTON — The athletes representing the Buckhannon-Upshur High School track team outperformed all pre-meet predictions in the 2022 West Virginia Track and Field Championships at Charleston’s Laidley Field, which started on Thursday, May 19 and lasted until Saturday, May 21. Head Coach Patty Wager’s 4x400-relay team entered the start of the state meet with expectations almost unparalleled in school history, having not dropped a single race all year long. The historic streak continued on Mountain State track and field’s biggest stage as Shawn Blandino, Sterlin Thropp, Julian Larcher and Jordan Gillum shined when the pressure was on, cruising to the 4x400-meter Class-AAA state title, with a new school-record time of 3:25.26, beating the previous all-time school-best time of 3:26.79 in the event and finishing the season with as undefeated state champions.
As a team, coaches Wager and assistant Roberta “Bobbie” Hatcher had their team ready to compete. The Buccaneers ran their best overall meet of the season at the state meet in Charleston, not just breaking the 4x400-meter school record, but setting two more new school records en route to collecting 45 total team points, good enough to capture a fifth-place team finish. University ended up taking home the boys overall team title with 93 total points, while Jefferson with 88 total team points settled for a close second-place. Huntington finished back in a rather distant third-place, ending the meet with 53 total team points. Musselman took fourth-place with 51 total team points, coming in just ahead of the B-UHS boys who rounded out the top five.
The 4x400 team was not the only Buccaneer relay pairing to have a record-setting day, as the both the 4x100 and 4×200-meter relay teams, consisting of Camden Snyder, Blandino, Sterlin Thropp and Babawale-Thropp set a new school record with combined times of 43.96 and 1:29.95, respectively.
The B-UHS 4×800-meter relay team of Jack Waggy, Reis Leonard, Gillum and Larcher rounded out a strong day of relay racing for Coach Wager’s Bucs, taking fourth-place with a combined time of 8:15.18.
In other notable individual performances by Coach Wager’s Bucs included, Gillum taking a second-place finish in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:56.76 and Blandino scoring a runner-up finish in the 400-meter dash with a time of 49.54 seconds. Blandino narrowly edged out his 4x400-relay running mate Sterling Thropp, who posted a time of 49.69 seconds, sealing a third-place finish. Babawale-Thropp took a fifth-place finish in the 200-meter dash finals with a time of 22.73 seconds, after finishing sixth in the event’s preliminaries on the first day of the meet. Junior Savion Farmer took eighth-place overall in the long jump event, with a leap of 19’ 4.75, while Landen Zirkle earned ninth in the pole vault with an attempted clearing the 11’ mark. Freshman Carter Zuliani had a strong debut at states, earning a top ten finish when he crossed the line ninth in the 110-meter hurdles, with a time of 16.29 seconds, capping off a very successful 2022 campaign for the Buccaneers track team.
The undefeated state championship run of the 4x400-meter relay team is an accomplishment that ensures their spot in B-UHS athletic lore as legends.
Coach Patty Wager took a moment to sum up from her perspective what this accomplishment means for the athletes of that relay pairing and the team as a whole, saying, “I am so proud of my team. Our 2022 experience as states was a unique and emotional one. The 4x400-meter relay team all cried at the end of the race. It was a bittersweet moment, to go out as a champion, but knowing that it was the end of Sterlin being with the rest of the team. It was really special. I’ve never had a team so talented or so close since I started coaching back in 2007. It’s a huge accomplishment for both them and our program. I think that those four have built a bond that can truly stand the test of time.”