Anthony Sanders taking strong work ethic to W.Va. Wesleyan

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Frankfort's Anthony Sanders, key member of the Falcons' class AA state championship squad, has signed to continue his academic, cross country and track careers at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

SHORT GAP - It’s been quite a senior season for Frankfort cross country runner Anthony Sanders. For starters, Sanders helped to lead Frankfort’s “Blue Wave,” finishing seventh and sandwiched between sixth place finisher Xander Shoemake and eighth place finisher Peyton Slider as the Falcons claimed their first ever class AA cross country state state championship.

It was the culmination of four years of incredible hard work and all that incredible dedication and hard work, alongside his brothers and second family, saw his team collectively celebrate this amazing group accomplishment.

Something else happened along the way, this time an individual prize, as on Saturday, with his parents Kristie and Anthony by his side, Sanders signed a deal seeing him earn a scholarship to attend and run cross country and track at Division II West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“The school is really nice, I really like the school, and it’s where both of my cross country coaches graduated and ran, Woody Snoberger and Juan Phillips. It’s a very good academic school,” Sanders said.

“While there, I plan to major in business, because Wesleyan has an amazing business program.”

According to Sanders, “A Wesleyan coach, Kelsey Chambers, who is a relatively new coach, reached out to Coach Snoberger asking if he had any runners, and he mentioned my name. I believe she was already looking at me, but that’s how she got my number.”

“Anthony is proof that if you are willing to work for something you can accomplish great things,” Frankfort cross country coach Woody Snoberger stated.  “He was not a ‘natural,’ but he made himself into an All-State runner and that is amazing and now he is going to be running at an NCAA division II program on a scholarship that he earned!”

According to Snoberger, “Anthony is such a great kid. I had him in math class when he was in eighth grade and thought he would get a lot out of being on our cross country team. He was not known to be an athletic kid, but you could see then that he was a kid that was willing to work for what he wanted.

“When he came in as a freshman, he was definitely raw, but you could see that willingness to go after his goals and Juan (Phillips) and I knew he would be a key part of our team in future years. The next year he made the varsity squad as our six/seven man, but I think that was his real wake up call. He made a huge jump his junior season by finishing top 20 at the state meet and being the four runner for possibly the best team we had had at Frankfort up to that date,” Snoberger explained.   

“His senior season, he really wanted to be All-State, but more than that he wanted to bring home that team state championship so during that time he was pivotal at keeping the team running during a time where it would have been easy to just give up,” Snoberger stated. “He overcame a lot in order to help lead us to that championship and to say I am proud of him would be an understatement!”

According to Snoberger, “I do have to say that Juan and I are really excited he decided to pic our alma mater. Even if the coach is different, it is really cool to see him go to a school with such a great history of success.”

Frankfort cross country coach Juan Phillips echoed Snoberger’s words in heaping praise upon Sanders and looks forward to seeing him continue to progress at the college level.

“It’s been a wonderful pleasure seeing Anthony grow as a runner and student. His bubbly behavior and big smile was an instant boost to our team his freshman year and never changed over the four years,” Phillips stated. “His dedication and rising over challenges has helped motivate many of his fellow teammates.”

According to Phillips, “He achieved All-PVC, All-Area, and All-State.  Above all his accomplishments is that Anthony is a kid of great character. Anthony has yet to fully tap his potential and I look forward to seeing his success in his athletics and career as he moves forward.”

Anthony Sanders has the same admiration for his coaches Woody Snoberger, Juan Phillips, and Joe Dalonges as they espouse for him.

“With our coaches, Woody (Snoberger) and Juan (Phillips), it’s been very good working under them. Woody is very good at making plans and he always runs the workouts with him, and Juan is very good at encouraging us and making sure everything is organized. They’ve showed me the importance of running every day, I don’t go a day without running.”

Also, according to Sanders, “I also admire my assistant coach Joe Dalonges, he’s been a big part of my training and encouragement and all-around a good friend.”  

What would eventually culminate in a state championship by his senior season was definitely a four-year journey of steady improvement, both for Sanders and the program.

“Winning states, from my ninth grade year, is just something I knew we needed to do. I didn’t run states that year, but I just knew we were eventually destined to win. My tenth grade year, I did run, and we finished fourth, which was kind of a letdown.  But probably the biggest letdown was before my eleventh grade year, when we were ranked as the best team in the state but ended up losing to Fairmont Senior and Bridgeport. We put everything out there but we just honestly weren’t the better team,” Sanders explained.

According to Sanders, “At the start of my senior year, I had an injury and took a month off of training. That injury continued a little bit but got better. But, as soon as the end of season championship meets started, I reinjured it. I had my worst race ever at regionals. So, my state ranking dropped from ninth to 13th, which was super depressing,” Sanders detailed.

By the time the state meet rolled around, Sanders had found an amazing sense of calm and contentment, however, and it helped propel him and his team to the top finish.

“As soon as we lined up, it was just a calming moment. You would think it would be super stressful because we didn’t have our top runner Garrett (Ferguson), and I knew that if I had a bad race, and didn’t run the best I could, there was no way we were coming home with that state title. Everyone on our team had to run the best race they could for us to win, and I knew I just couldn’t let down my team,” Sanders explained.

 “You would have thought it would have been a stressful moment, but on the line at the state meet was just the calmest moment of my life.”

That calmness paid off. So too did the amazing performance put forth by Sanders and the entirety of the Frankfort team as they collectively ran the race of their lives. Still, upon the completion of the race, there was great suspense as to who had actually won the title.

“I remember this moment very vividly.  I was just coming off the individual top ten podium and it was a nail biter. We knew that it was extremely close. They accidentally announced the first place team before the second, which they don’t normally do. They said, ‘and the state champion is Frankfort High School.’  It was amazing, four years of hard work had paid off,” Sanders explained.

Then there was the special welcome the team received from what seemed like the entire Frankfort community upon returning to Short Gap hours later.

“The convoy of firetrucks and the police escort was truly amazing, sticking our heads out the window and being cheered on by everybody, there was truly nothing like it,” Sanders expressed.

Sanders put in the work, many long hours in fact, to achieve his goal of now getting to run in college. He’s the first to admit he’s had help and support along the way and is quick to thank those who have supported him.

“There have been so many people that have helped me along the way. My parents have always been a big support, and so have my grandparents. But, the coaches at Frankfort have had a big impact on my running,” Sanders explained.  

“I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with Woody, when I was in tenth grade I would get rides  from him to cross country summer conditioning. The same with the season and track season, we got to talk every single day,” Sanders stated.  “He’s been a big help with training, encouraging me, shoes, we talk about shoes all the time.”

According to Sanders, “When I got injured, he was really the one talking me into getting my head back in the game and not letting this injury stop me from doing what I needed to do. He also, probably one of the things I will never forget, ever, is that one of the reasons I was so calm at the state meet is due to a talk he gave me.”

Then there are his teammates, not just in this their championship senior season, but those he has run beside over a four-year career.

“As cool as that state title was, spending time with all the boys on the cross country team, just meeting new people, it truly is the journey what means the most. They are my second family; I love everyone on that team like a brother. Those guys are the reason that I showed up every day and tried my hardest.”

In a few short months, Sanders will begin a new journey with new teammates at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Rest assured, he won’t forget, and in fact will build on, his Frankfort roots.