By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
GARDNER — Conditions were very good for cross-country runners on Saturday morning in Mercer County, and Jason Weitzel and Katelyn Odle capitalized on them.
Weitzel conquered his school’s course on the PikeView High School campus in an apparent school-record time of 17:16, winning the boys varsity competition in the Wendy’s Invitational Cross Country meet on a bright and breezy day.
He said the old record was 17:24, held by Brent Roark.
“It’s pretty important, just because I like to have my name in PikeView’s records,” Weitzel said. “I’m pretty proud of it.”
He said, “The first mile was really fast, it was like a 5-minute first mile. ... After the initial start, I was pretty tired at the beginning. But after that, I caught my second wind and it was pretty good.”
“After the first mile, since it was so fast, I tried to slow down just a little bit, just to maintain for the last mile, and run it just as fast as the first mile if I could.”
Oak Hill’s Cody Gillespie finished second at 18:01. Weitzel said that Gillespie is ranked in the top 10 among state Class AAA runners. “He’s really good,” Weitzel said. “And there are some other ranked runners who were in this race.”
That said, Weitzel noted that he can’t dwell on the reputation of others when he’s competing. Instead, he said, “(You) just go out and try to win. Don’t worry about anyone else.”
In the team competition, PikeView finished fourth among the nine complete boys teams on Saturday. The Panthers have done well so far this season.
Weitzel said, “I’m super proud of everybody. I’m really happy that we have a team this year. Last year, we had two guys at the end of the season. This year, we have, like 10.”
In order to help his team, he said, “I just try to push ’em, keep ’em working hard, and try to make ’em better, every practice.”
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Odle claimed first place among the varsity girls with a time of 22:25. She was ahead for most of the race, but had to guard against challengers.
“I ran the first mile, and I could hear them real close behind me, and it pushed me to go faster,” Odle said.
She held off a late surge by Amelia Sebok of Sherman High, who finished just 2 seconds behind.
Odle said, “Up until the finish, I had it, and then she caught up to me.” Down the stretch, she said her thoughts were, “I’ve got to kick it in, I’ve got to suck it up, and finish hard.”
She said about Saturday’s conditions, “It was a little hot, but with a cool breeze, so it was perfect.”
A junior, she has been running competitively since seventh grade. Her main goal for this year, she said, is “to beat my time from last year in the state meet.”
She also talked about the importance of teamwork.
“We encourage each other,” she said. During races, she said, “We try to stay in a close pack. Whoever’s closest to the one in front has to close the gap.”
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Weitzel said, “On our home course, it’s always, you’re supposed to win. ... You’re always trying to win, and we were able to both win, the girls’ and the boys’ races.”
The boys team from Oak Hill took the team trophy with 35 points. Sherman High School came in second.
Only two schools fielded complete girls teams Saturday, PikeView and Princeton.
The coach for Sherman, former Concord runner Adam Koon, said that five of his graduates are running for area colleges, and that fact encourages the current crop of high school students.
“They know it can be done,” Koon said.
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It appeared that Wendy herself had shown up for the Wendy’s Invitational. Megan Ondell portrayed the classic character with a red wig and freckles, and watched the race along with her district supervisor in the restaurant chain, Sharon Walls.
Both were presented race T-shirts by race director Paul Hodges, a member of the county board of education and a retired PikeView teacher and coach.
Walls said about the race, “I think this is a good opportunity for kids to excel.”
— Contact Tom Bone at
Girls — PikeView 17, Princeton 45.
Boys — Oak Hill 35, Sherman 50, Westside 73, PikeView 79, Greater Beckley Christian 140, Wyoming East 153, Princeton 155, Independence 214.