You hear the word “dynasty” a lot in the circles of sports.
Ravenswood had a true "dynasty" going in the late 1980s and early 1990s with Red Devilette girls track and field.
Jim Mahan and Bryan Canterbury were the architects of a Ravenswood program which finished at the top of the Class AA-A girls track and field scoreboard five out of six seasons to claim state championships.
While competing in athletics during their high school days at Ravenswood, Mahan and Canterbury excelled.
Both starred in football and are a part of the school’s prestigious Red Devil Hall of Fame.
Mahan was also an exceptional wrestler, baseball player and tennis player.
Besides football, Canterbury was an outstanding thrower of the shot put and discus during track and field season.
Mahan, a 1979 Ravenswood High graduate, wrestled at the next level for Marshall University.
At West Virginia State, Canterbury, who graduated from Ravenswood in 1976, was a four-year starter in football.
Though three grades apart while at Ravenswood, the two had developed a strong friendship which would make for a great partnership guiding an athletic program.
They proved themselves early on in the coaching business by working several sports, but it was in the spring with girls track and field where they truly made a name for themselves in the profession.
They worked tirelessly at getting their athletes to give it everything they had.
The two were always burning the midnight oil in figuring out ways to maximize the talent they had, getting them to peak at just the right time and then ultimately taking Ravenswood to championship glory.
The third in the string of those five titles came 30 years ago during the 1990 State Meet.
What this Devilette team did is mind-boggling.
They won the crown by amassing an incredible 125 points – a State Meet record at that time for team competition.
The Devilettes won six team championships that year, culminating with the most important of all at the State Meet in Charleston.
It was Ravenswood’s third consecutive state title – the first Class AA-A program in the sport’s history to do so. It also marked the first Ravenswood High sports program to be the owner of three team state championships.
“That was a good year. It was a special group of girls. They did everything we asked. They worked really hard. They had a vision. That group didn’t lose a track meet in May all four years they were in school," said Mahan, now Director of Secondary/Vocational Education for Jackson County schools.
The 125 points at the 1990 State Meet came in part to another state record being set with the Devilettes winning nine events.
That is 90 points if you’re counting at home.
Those taking championships individually in Charleston that year included Carla Smith, who won both the 200 and 400, with times of 26.45 and 57.88 (both a school and state record), respectively.
Another double-winner was Jennifer Jones in the 300 hurdles and 800 meters. Jones’ 300 time was 47.15 and she was clocked at 2:24.6 in the 800.
The two shared High Point honors at the State Meet by scoring 24 ½ points each.
“They were competitive to a fault," said Mahan. "They both had that drive to be the best. They were really meticulous about what they were doing. Carla was a gifted athlete. Jennifer was spot-on when it came to competing. You knew what you were going to get from those two every time they stepped on the track. They always proved it. Both were incredibly versatile.”
Alison Embrey won the 1600 meters in 5:31.46.
Christine Anderson won the Class AA-A state high jump title, clearing the bar at 5-2.
Ravenswood's other three championship wins came in the relay competition.
The 4x100 meter relay team featuring Staci Shaver, Carla Smith, Jones and Renee Mullens captured the state title in a school-record time of 50.60.
The 4x400 unit, consisting of Sharon Smith, Marla Smith, Kim Broscious and Mullens, won a state championship. Those four also set a new school mark with a time of 4:12.2.
Another state championship-winning relay was the 4x800 squad of the Marla and Sharon Smith, Melissa McKeithan and Embrey. They, too, did so with a record-setting time of 10:01.4.
The 4x200 team just missed winning a title by finishing a close second.
Others making up the powerful Devilette squad were Cara Starkey (now Williams and the head girls basketball coach at Ravenswood), Joy Koschmann, Juli Bradley, Kellie Teets, Melissa Rolston, Lori Hedrick, Kathy Woolever, Erin Shockey, Mitzie Howard and Faith Koschmann.
The captains were Embrey, Shaver and Carla Smith.
Carla Smith, Marla Smith, Faith Koschmann, Embrey, Broscious, Shaver and McKeithan were all seniors.
“They started in middle school with (coach) Jim Frashier (a current Jackson County Board of Education member),” said Canterbury, who has since won nine state titles as the school's boys cross country coach. “We had a great program from middle school up and that kept our dominance alive.”
Those records of 125 team points and nine championship events at the 1990 meet no longer stand since there are now three classes instead of two.
When considering how many more teams Ravenswood was going against during that time frame, it takes their accomplishments to an even higher level.
“It was a great group of motivated, talented athletes who wanted to dominate,” Canterbury added. “We transitioned from having the great Jill Balis to a team that was strong in all areas. They believed in the coaches and their teammates and they were extremely focused.”
The team celebrated its third title in a row a few days later with an outstanding dinner/banquet at Greenhills Country Club – an event put on by the parents and community, who supported the program like no other.
“I always told the team before the State Meet (always held over Memorial Day back then) that every Memorial Day they would think back to the day they were state champions,” Canterbury said. “It is hard to believe that those young ladies have gone on to become successful adults over the past 30 years.”
Looking back Mahan added, “That was just an incredible weekend. Everything was perfect. They did everything they had to do. We just had peak performances from that group.”
Ravenswood would win a fourth straight state championship the following season and then added the fifth in 1993.
“I hope this Memorial Day they have a moment to remember their accomplishments," Canterbury said. "It was a wonderful time. They were a pleasure of coach.”
And without question, those athletes were blessed to have two of the very best as their coaches.