KEYSER - The 2020 version of Keyser's cross country teams will be small in numbers, but big in terms of competitiveness. With a current roster of six for the girls and five for the boys, the wide-ranging effects of COVID haven't been helpful, but what has been beneficial is the drive of those on the roster to work hard and succeed.

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

KEYSER - The 2020 version of Keyser’s cross country teams will be small in numbers, but big in terms of competitiveness. With a current roster of six for the girls and five for the boys, the wide-ranging effects of COVID haven’t been helpful, but what has been beneficial is the drive of those on the roster to work hard and succeed.

How has COVID affected pre-season planning and practicing for Keyser’s cross country teams? Other than impacting number potentially, the effects are less for both the girls and the boys because of the individual, spread out, outdoor nature of the sports. Other than having the beginning of the season push backed two weeks, individual training at home still took place. That’s the nature of running.

“I haven’t seen too much difference in terms of actual practice. Cross country’s a unique sport where we are outside and spread out all the time. The kids go out and run by themselves. I have a good group of girls and they’re good about wearing their masks,” Keyser girls’ coach Kurtis Wildman stated.

According to Keyser boys’ coach Tammie Hart-Smith, “We actually started two weeks later in the season, but the regional and state meets are still at the same time. So, it’s a hindrance timewise. The athletes though, they should have still been training in June, they get summer homework, the workouts they should be doing.”

One significant effect COVID had on Keyser cross country was to scheduling. With Maryland postponing all fall sports, gone are local Maryland schools participation in local meets, and of course the meets the Maryland schools hosted are cancelled. Gone also are overnight trips to places like Cabell Midland in West Virginia, and out of state travels to Pennsylvania and further away in Maryland.

SCHEDULING

According to Wildman for the girls, “We were at 17 meets and now we’re down to 10. We picked up a couple home meets here, we picked up a meet in Fairmont and Grafton. We’ve picked up some meets, but we won’t get all of that back. I think we’re still going to get good competition because we’re going to some meets where we are going to see every team in our region.

Hart-Smith explains the effects on the boys’ schedule, “We are going to miss out on some quality meets. We have, for the last 10 years, ever since I took over the program, wen to big invitational in Pennsylvania and Maryland, just to get the boys ready for the regional meet. Even the local meets that we are missing in Maryland, at Mountain Ridge and Allegany College, they were really good meets.

While the numbers are low for both squads, the personnel comprising those squads come with experience. For example, the Keyser girls have a six-person roster comprised of five returners. For the boys, the four-person roster is comprised of three returners. Having that experience returning will be helpful for both squads.

“As of now we have six girls, that could always change, and if it does, it will go up. Of the six runners, five are returning and the new runner is a senior. The five returners are sophomore Averi Everline, senior Claire Delsignore, junior Isabella Grubbs, junior Scarlett Cameron and junior Christine Pryor. The newcoming senior is Marilee Kitzmiller,” Wildman explains.

According to Hart-Smith, “This year there are four on our squad, consisting of Logan Hedrick, Trenton Denne, Griffin Paugh and Dirk Shoemaker. Three of the four are returning sophomores (Denne, Paugh, Shoemaker) and Hedrick is the freshman. We typically have a small squad anyway, like last year we had seven, but I think COVID and some other things lessened that number. As it stands now, we will never score as a team. I had told them anyway, that there are individual rewards if you put in the work.

In terms of a season outlook, both squads are desiring to see continued improvement with their returning runners, and the hope that that the experienced runners will positively influence the newcomers. In one case, that continuous improvement will get them back to the state meet. For others, that continuous improvement could get them there for the first time.

“From the get-go, I think a lot of my girls have put a lot of time in over the summer. A lot of them have shown improvement since last year. Last year, Averi Everline qualified for states. I think that’s definitely a possibility for this year again. Scarlett Cameron just missed qualifying last year, I think she can get in this year. The others will work be working hard towards those goals and in getting better day by day.”

According to Hart-Smith, “Realistically, I would like to see them all do a lot better than last year, at least two minutes better. With Griffin not, because he ran 18 minutes last year, it would really be a win if he could run 17 minutes. All the other ones, with the exception of Logan (Hedrick) being a freshman, they all should be able to run two minutes faster than last year. The success is time.”

While there may have been an effect on overall numbers, as both Wildman and Hart-Smith have pointed out, cross country is perhaps the sport least impacted when it comes to training. Being outside and running has been allowed, and it’s clear that on both squads the runners have been working hard.