Smorgasbord of sports

Mark Martin

In a matter of days, high school sports will be starting up in West Virginia – winter sports, that is.

Swimming, wrestling, girls basketball, and boys basketball will finally be back in the competitive stages.

It has been a long wait.

Keep in mind, these are seasons that generally would be coming to a close.

In fact, in normal times this weekend would be the State Wrestling Tournament. The State Swimming Meet would have taken place last weekend. 

COVID-19 delays changed all of that, of course.

So, hang on to your seat, it will be fast and furious here the next few months.

While Jackson County schools do not offer swimming, the teams of wrestling and basketball will be full go and we look forward to following their progress. These teams have truly dealt with a lot to get the chance to have seasons…though, much later than anyone is accustomed to when it comes to the courts and the mats.

And while winter sports will have a lot happening in a short period, it won't be all taking place in this time frame. There will be a bit of an overlap as spring sports teams being their preparations.

The spring sports of tennis, track and field, softball and baseball have had the longest wait of all considering their seasons of 2020 were totally wiped out. 

MOUNTAIN EAST CONFERENCE: The area high school scene will be busy as will the continuation of sports in the NCAA Division II Mountain East Conference.

Besides wrapping up winter sports, the athletic teams of spring will be involved with their seasons.

And, oh yes, there is also football on the horizon.

The MEC cancelled football and other fall sports so they are now getting their seasons started.

As far as football goes, the MEC will have a shortened season and then conclude with a championship.

As one MEC coach stated this week, “It’s beats the alternative.”

THE STATE OF THE STATE: On the topic of the Mountain East Conference, the West Virginia State University Yellow Jacket program is gearing up for another season under the leadership of the outstanding Sean Loyd.

His roster includes a pair of Ripley Vikings in Christopher Jordan and Dane Peterson.

Jordan will enter his fourth season with the Jackets and is expected to play third base.

Peterson is one of State’s pitchers.

Speaking of Loyd, as an outstanding high school quarterback at Braxton County he was under the guidance of the late Ernie Moore.

From 1968-70, Moore served as head coach for the Ripley Vikings. Moore’s 1968 squad was 7-3, which included an upset of an undefeated Ravenswood team for the Hatchet.

His 1969 team posted an 8-2 mark.

Moore died last May.

Before becoming the head coach at State, Loyd served as an assistant to the great Cal Bailey, whose career in the education field started in Jackson County.

Bailey, too, died last spring.

Loyd said it was a tough blow to lose not one, but two great men who helped mold his life.

They didn’t come any better than Ernie Moore and Cal Bailey.

And they certainly don’t come any better than Sean Loyd.

LAYHEW ON THE MOUND: Luke Layhew, a former Ripley High Athlete of the Year, is still a college athlete.

After wrapping up his days on the basketball floor last season at the University of Pikeville, where he earned All-America honors, Layhew stayed around the Kentucky-based school and decided to take advantage of playing baseball for the Bears.

Layhew is listed as a pitcher for the UPIKE team of 2021.

He was an outstanding baseball player at Ripley High.

Going back to his youth days, Layhew was a member of the Ripley Little League All-Star team of 2021 that won the West Virginia State Tournament and advanced to regional playing. One of the team’s games aired on ESPN. 

BOWLED OVER: I was watching the PBA Tour on Sunday afternoon and continue to be amazed with what these individuals can do on the lanes.

Growing up, I fell in love with the sport. In addition to competing in the Bantam and Junior Youth Leagues, my friends and I spent a lot of our spare time at old Ripley Lanes crafting our skills.

A typical Saturday meant bowling, eating the great food from the Dairy Bowl, heading home to watch the Pro Bowlers Tour, with the likes of the great Earl Anthony, Johnny Petraglia and Mark Roth just to name a few, and then going back to the lanes that night for more bowling.

It’s funny when I think back how we managed to work bowling around all of the other sports seasons to come our way.

I miss seeing not only Ripley Lanes but Raven Lanes in Ravenswood.

Here’s hoping one day a bowling center returns to Jackson County.