’Jackets in Russ Parsons Invite

PARKERSBUG – The Russ Parsons United Way Invitational sponsored by Dominion will get underway with field events at 10:30 a.m. today and running events starting 30 minutes later.

The 17th annual event has a name change this spring and Parkersburg High School boys head track coach Rod O’Donnell is excited for today’s meet on many fronts.

Not only is he anxious to see if the Big Reds can win the team crown for a third consecutive year, but he wants this meet to become the best in the Mountain State.

“We already have our date for next year,” O’Donnell said. “Having United Way and Dominion support us allows us to do some things and it’s going to make this meet a very classy affair.

“We want to develop this and make it a track weekend. We’ll have the junior varsity meet on Friday and the varsity on Saturday.”

Not only are the Big Red boys looking for another title at Stadium Field, but the PHS girls of head coach Leah Fleak will try to defend their title as well.

“It will be a pretty competitive meet on the girls side,” Fleak noted. “The girls really performed well at the Marietta Night Relays. They won all but four events and did a great job.”

Along with the host Big Reds, Parkersburg South, Williamstown, Doddridge County, Ritchie County, Ripley, Eastern, Caldwell, University, Hurricane and Akron Buchtel will compete for team titles. Winfield opted not to come to this year’s meet and Wayne will be represented by one athlete – distance runner Kylie Rutherford. “I coached her dad Jeff. He was a sprinter for me at Marshall,” O’Donnell said of Rutherford, who recently signed to continue her career at East Tennessee State University. “He’s a good buddy of mine.”

O’Donnell is expecting to get pushed today and he’s hoping his team is ready to respond. No matter what happens, he’s just glad Mother Nature is going to cooperate for once.

“I’m just anxious to see where they are on a really good warm weather day because we haven’t had warm weather yet,” he said.

“It’s supposed to be very nice and almost ideal conditions. The level of competition is going to be good.”

Both PHS coaches agreed they are still working on several aspects of their program and are trying different combinations in various events to gauge what will be best for their squads moving forward.

“My girls are a competitive group and they show up and they have confidence,” Fleak added. “I’m looking for them to continue to PR this weekend. They put forth everything they have.”