CHARLESTON – For as long as one can remember in the circles of West Virginia high school track and field, coaches have often felt how their team finishes in the Gazette Relays (now formally known as the Gazette-Mail/Friends of Coal Relays) could be a good indicator as to where they might fit into the team standings when the season-ending State Meet rolls around.

While no one wants to count their championship before it actually happens, one thing is for certain: Ripley’s Lady Vikings will be a Class AAA title contender when teams in the Mountain State compete for the final time at University of Charleston Stadium on May 19-20.

Over the weekend, the Lady Vikings claimed the Class AAA championship in the prestigious meet.

“I’m so proud of them,” said first-year head coach Sarah Summers. “We did fantastic.”

Ripley produced eight first-place finishes over the course of the two-day meet (which is set up in the same manner as the State Meet) and ended with 90 points to finish ahead of runner-up Jefferson, who scored 77.

Freshman Tori Starcher was a triple winner (800, 1600 and 3200) individually and also ran the anchor leg on the winning 4x400 meter relay squad to pace the potent Lady Viking attack. Starcher’s winning times were 2:12.77 (a new meet record) in the 800, 4:55.58 in the 1600 and 10:44.3 in the 3200.

She was joined on the 4x4 team, which established a new meet record with a time of 4:03.66, by Allison Fields, Haley Carson and Laurel Miller.

Fields, also a freshman, captured two individual events by taking first in the 100 (12.57) and 200 (26.55).

Miller, a senior who is bound for the College of Charleston (SC), was the high jump winner (5-6).

Miller and Fields were also a part of the winning 4x200 relay squad (1:46.82) running the final two legs, respectively. Courtney Lanham started the relay with Sydni Cunningham running the second leg.

The remainder of Ripley’s points were scored by Miller in the 100 hurdles (15.65) with a third place finish and Carson, who was fourth in the 400 (1:02.62).

Starcher’s 32 ½ points put her second in the High Point race behind GW’s Malika Houston, who took top honors with 36. Madison Trippett of Parkersburg was third with 26 ½ while Fields was fourth with 25 and Miller fifth with 21.

“This gave the girls a good boost,” said Summers of the championship. “We have a lot of depth.”

Ripley’s boys team, which placed third overall in AAA with 74 points, was the producer of the High Point winner as Ridge Dalrymple scored 23 ½ to lead the Vikings of head coach Mike Bright.

The senior, who will compete at the next level for West Virginia Wesleyan, won the 110 high hurdles (14.74), the 300 hurdles (39.74), ran the anchor leg on the winning shuttle hurdle relay unit (58.16) and was a part of the fourth place 4x400 team (3:40.04).

“He is a special talent,” said Bright. “He just continues to get better and better.”

Joining Dalrymple on the shuttle team were Sam Pierson, Steven Carte and Garrett Robertson.

“They just keep getting faster,” said the Viking T&F leader.

Running mates in the 4x400 were Noah Carson, Robertson and Sean Fields.

Another first for the Vikings came in the 4x200 relay (1:32.51) with Robertson, Pierson, Carte and Noah Kelly making up the foursome. “We switched up the order and they came out and blew the doors off of everybody,” Bright said.

Pierson finished second in the 200 (23.13).

Carte also scored in the 200 (23.49) by taking fourth. Fields was fourth in the 400 (52.56) along with Drew Swisher in the pole vault (12-0).

Ripley had a pair of fifth place finishes with Evan King in the pole vault (11-6) and the 4x100 squad (45.68), which featured Griffin Durst, Corey Evans, Carte and Mason Dolin. Sixth place finishers were Robertson in the 300 hurdles (42.96) and Caden Parsons in the pole vault (11-0).

“We just had a lot of guys step up to the plate big time,” Bright said.

Both teams now gear up for the championship run of the season with the Mountain State Athletic Conference Meet (set for this Friday) followed by regionals and the crown jewel of them all the State Meet.