Once an athletic team gets on a successful run, the hope is to keep it going.
The Ripley Lady Viking track and field program is keeping its fingers crossed that the run will continue.
Entering the 2020 season, Ripley was aiming for a third consecutive Class AAA state championship.
Last May at University of Charleston Stadium/Laidley Field, Ripley edged out Wheeling Park, 82-80, to claim the title for a second straight year.
The dynamic duo of Tori Starcher and Allison Fields led the way.
With those two returning for their senior seasons, Ripley is certainly primed for another outstanding showing and a great chance at pulling off the three-peat.
An abbreviated season, though, is still a question mark due to COVID-19.
For many reasons, Cunningham wants to see some type of season unfold.
And one of those is getting to coach two of the most outstanding runners in school history one last time.
“They’ve meant a ton to this program,” said Cunningham, who is in her third season as Ripley’s head coach. “It’s hard to express how much. They have both been such big leaders. I was really looking forward to watching them run and hope that I will get to. I hate it for both of them (as the virus has shortened the season).”
Of Starcher, who will continue her career at Stanfor, Cunningham said, “Tori was injured in cross country. She was bouncing back quickly She’s one of the hardest workers I know. She pushes through any workout. It’s her strong point. She’s a gutsy runner.”
Cunningham, who is assisted by Keri Starcher, Victoria Crise and Tom Bailey, said Fields was “super excited” about her senior season.
“She’s an extremely strong worker. Very strong mentality. She doesn’t let stuff get to her. She’s always able to push through.”
At last year’s State Meet, Starcher won the 800, 1600 and 3200 for a third straight year. In addition, she was the anchor the leg for a third consecutive State Meet on the winning 4x400 meter relay team.
Starcher set state records in the 800 (2:08.40) and the 1600 (4:46.61).
The 4x400 team also set a new record (which Ripley had owned) with a time of 4:01.64.
Fields captured the AAA title in the 100 meters for the second time in her career last season with a time of 12.47.
She was second in both the 200 (25.98) and 400 (57.65).
She was also a member of the 4x400 meter relay unit for a third straight year.
As a freshman Fields won both the 100 and 200.
As a sophomore, she battled injury but still managed to place third in the 100 and in the 200.
Sophomore Kyanah Baldwin returns this season for Ripley. Baldwin was a member of the state champion 4x4 team and qualified in the 100 meters. Cassidy Miller, who graduated. was the other member of the 4x4 squad.
“Kyanah has a ton of potential,” said Cunningham.
Three members of the 4x800 meter relay team that qualified for the State Meet last year are back in juniors Jadyn Casto and Aubrey Stephens along with sophomore Haleigh McCune. The other piece of the relay team graduated in Allison Knox.
“Jadyn’s a very hard worker,” Cunningham said. “Aubrey and Haleigh will be very important in coming seasons.”
Olivia Gandee and Gracie Smith, two senior soccer standouts bound for Marshall and Fairmont, respectively, were out for the team this year and were looking to make an impact on relays.
Gandee was working at middle distance and Smith the sprints.
Two qualifiers in field event competition returned this season in senior Parker Anderson (shot put) and sophomore Gwyneth Gandee (pole vault).
“Gwyneth was in really good shape. Parker does an exceptional job, she’s the leader of our throwers,” Cunningham said. “We’re really proud of her.”
Field competition is where Ripley was hit hard with the graduation as Olivia Miller, who was a state champion in the pole vault and a third-place finisher in the high jump, departed.
The senior class this year also features Grace Zuniga (middle distance) and Addison Wilkinson (sprints/long jump).
In addition to Casto and Stephens, juniors competing are Rebecca Burdette (shot put/discus), Aurora Huffman (hurdles) and Laney Harper (utility).
“Huffman was doing extremely well,” Cunningham said.
Joining Baldwin and Gandee in the sophomore class are Daylin Rose (middle distance/hurdles), Mia Casto (shot put, discus, sprints), Emily Frashier (pole vault/ high jump) and Tori Fisher (distance/high jump).
Freshmen out are Jazzmin Parsons (pole vault/hurdles), Gabby Smith (hurdles) and Kaylee Smith (hurdles/sprints).
“We hope all of these kids get a chance to have some kind of season,” Cunningham said.
For many reasons, including the possibility of a three-peat.