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State officials unveil program aimed at reducing layoffs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — WorkForce West Virginia is rolling out a program for employers aimed at reducing layoffs.

Scott Adkins

The Short-Time Compensation (STC) Program  allows hours to be reduced across the entire workforce and the wage difference is picked up by unemployment compensation through WorkForce West Virginia, according to WorkForce acting Commissioner Scott Adkins.

“It keeps the employee tied to the employer, so if there’s a reduction in work, the employee is still attached to the employer, and the employer keeps that trained worker ready to go when work picks back up,” Adkins said during a Wednesday news conference.

The plan keeps employees and their families on health insurance and earns retirement contributions until the business recovers. Maintaining a ready employee eliminates the employee search, reduces training time, and increases productivity and the bottom line for the employer.

“Under an STC plan, employees are not required to be able and available for work, nor are they required to do work search activities,” Adkins said.

The employer must have a plan approved by West Virginia WorkForce Development in advance of any work reduction to take advantage of the STC program. Employers eligible for the program must reduce business activity by at least 10 percent and not more than 60%.

“To receive benefits under STC, employers must have an approved STC plan in place with West Virginia WorkForce Development before there is a reduction in hours,” Adkins said. “The STC application process is initiated by the employer, not by the employees.”

Adkins used an example of a worker making $200 per day and is reduced to four days a week for five. That worker will receive $800 for the days worked and 20% of their maximum unemployment benefit of $500.

“Now, rather than receiving the maximum benefit amount of $500, they’ll be eligible for $900,” Adkins said. “So, now there’s a real benefit for workers there.”

While the program offers alternatives to layoffs, employees will still have unpaid weeks while administrators determine the level of compensation they qualify for.

“The employee may be required to serve a mandatory waiting week,” Adkins said. “Just like under current law, there’s a one-week unpaid waiting period to determine the eligibility of a prospective unemployment recipient.”

The program was created in a bill lawmakers passed in 2021 dealing with unemployment issues that surfaced during the pandemic.

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Focus groups on schools focus on teacher retention, student achievement and more

Leaders of West Virginia teachers unions say focus groups around the state demonstrated an emphasis on recruitment and retention, managing student discipline, supporting mental health and increasing parental involvement.

Last fall, in response to disappointing standardized testing results on The Nation’s Report Card, the leaders of the West Virginia Education Association and American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia hit the road for focus groups discussing ways to support student success.

The presidents of the teachers unions discussed the findings from the focus groups during a Wednesday press conference.

Here are the main takeaways:

Recruitment and retention of employees One of the biggest items for retention and recruitment of employees is a competitive salary, the organizations concluded. “Salaries must be competitive with education jobs in our surrounding states as well as other professions in West Virginia. While the recent 5 percent salary increases have been appreciated, they have not kept up with the salaries of our surrounding states and inflation.”

Manage student discipline “Education employees are exhausted by the disciplinary issues plaguing our public schools. From minor classroom disruptions to assaults on employees, actions must be taken to provide a safe and effective learning environment. These disciplinary problems occur at all levels.”

The organizations advocate for alternative education centers at all academic levels including elementary. “Discipline referrals must be treated seriously by administrators, and discipline must be uniform and fair for all students.”

Mental health support All students and employees should have access to mental health support, the organizations say. “This will require additional counselors, psychologists and mental health professionals in our school systems at all levels.”

Increased parental involvement To assist student learning, the organizations say, parents and guardians must be involved. “For this to happen, those individuals need resources and support from our school systems and communities. Student achievement levels are highest when there is a coordinated effort between home and school environments. Resources such as Communities in Schools and parent resource centers should be expanded.”

The teachers unions say school systems are working on tight budgets with very little money to provide additional resources to support increasing student achievement. “If we are committed to increasing student achievement, we must commit the resources, both financial and programmatic, to institute programs and student assistance,” the organizations concluded.

Some bills advancing in the Legislature address issues like those.

The House Finance Committee this week advanced a bill that would bump starting teachers salaries from $39,000 up to $44,000. Following that, other salary levels established through statutory formula would also adjust upwards.

“It’s a great idea to get our beginning salaries to $44,000,” said WVEA President Dale Lee, in response to a question. “But one of the things that we’ve seen over the years is, we’ll address the need for a couple of years and then go four or five years without addressing the need. And we can’t do that. We have to make a concerted effort to go forward and look at this every year.”

Addressing the political viability of a pay raise bill at the same moment elected officials are discussing a big income tax cut, Lee described uncertainty.

“Do I think politically that has a chance? Depends on where we want to put our money in West Virginia,” he said, noting the billion-dollar surplus the state is running now. “I can’t think of any better investment than our kids, the students of West Virginia and their education. So do I think it has a chance if our priorities are with our kids? Yes. But we’ll see.”

Another policy being considered in the Senate and House of Delegates would provide more support in early-grade classrooms.

“I don’t see how you could not like an initiative to provide more support,” said Fred Albert, president of AFT-West Virginia. “We know that children who are struggling, if we get them early on, I like to say we’re putting them in intensive care to help them become good readers, fluent readers.

“So those bills, I think, are good. They’re going to cost money but again it’s an investment in our students and in our future, and I think that will help for student achievement.”

West Virginia’s test scores on last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress were well below the national average and amounted to the state’s lowest performance ever. The test assessed fourth and eighth graders on their reading and mathematics skills.

The scores motivated the teachers unions to participate in public discussions last fall in Morgantown, Wheeling, Charleston, Beckley and Martinsburg. An online focus group was also involved.

Improving will take time, the organizations concluded.

“Even with additional resources, we will not see the desired results overnight,” they said. “Increasing student achievement will take time and we must be committed to staying the course as the initiatives and changes we institute have time to show the desired results.”

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Herd open four-game road swing against Appalachian State

— By Bill Cornwell

A major tests awaits Marshall regarding its standing in the Sun Belt Conference on Thursday evening when the Herd begins a four-game conference road trip at Appalachian State.

The game, which can be seen on ESPN+, tips off at 6:30 p.m. at the Holmes Convocation Center in Boone, N.C.

Both teams were impressive in their most recent contest. The Mountaineers (13-10, 6-4) defeated Arkansas State at home last Saturday 63-51, while Marshall (18-5, 7-3) was blowing out Georgia State at the Henderson Center, 103-65.

The Herd and Mountaineers have already met once this season when Marshall won its initial Sun Belt Conference game on December 29 over the Mountaineers, 79-53.

Andrew Taylor and Kamdyn Curfman each scored 15 points in the contest to lead five Marshall players scored in double figures. Mountaineers’ guard Tyree Boykin scored a game-high 20 points in the loss.

The teams are meeting for the 52nd time, with Marshall leading the all-time series, 33-18.

The Herd sits alone in third place in the Sun Belt standings, a game behind co-leaders Louisiana and Southern Miss. The Mountaineers are in a three-way tie for fourth place in the league.

After a rough start in the Sun Belt this season, the Mountaineers have turned things around by winning three straight games and four of their last five.

Coach Dustin Kerns’ squad is led in scoring by senior forward Donovan Gregory and graduate guard Tyree Boykin at 11.9 points per game. Boykin, however, has not played since a January 12 loss to Georgia Southern as a result of a foot injury. 

Sophomore guard Terence Harcum is also a double-figure scorer at 10.8 points per game. 

Junior forward CJ Huntley is ASU’s top rebounder at 6.6 per game. Freshman forward Justin Abson’s 50 blocks ranks fourth in the Sun Belt totals, 10 behind league leader and Marshall freshman Micah Handlogten’s 60 blocks.

Taevion Kinsey continues to lead Marshall and the Sun Belt by scoring 21.3 points per game. Taylor (19.2 ppg) and Curfman (12.3 ppg) are Marshall’s other double-figure scorers, while Handlogten is a team and Sun Belt leader with 10.6 rebounds per contest.

Marshall is shooting better than 47 percent from the field, but only 64.5 percent on free throws, though the latter number is improving of late.

Marshall’s road trip continues at 8 p.m. Saturday when the Herd visits the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Notes: Marshall is one of three Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball programs among the top 10 teams in the most recent Mid-Major Top-25. The latest poll features Louisiana at No. 4, marking its highest ranking of the season. Southern Miss is No. 8 and Marshall is No. 10. James Madison also is receiving votes … All three ranked squads have at least 18 victories on the year and Southern Miss goes for win No. 20 on Thursday. The Sun Belt has four teams among the nation’s top 100 of the NCAA NET Rankings. Southern Miss leads the way at No. 67. Marshall is No. 71, James Madison is No. 89 and Louisiana is No. 94. Louisiana is on a Sun Belt-best eight-game win streak.

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Senate passes bill to ban TikTok on state devices

Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate passed its version of the TikTok ban bill on Wednesday and sent it over to the House, where its bill awaits Judiciary Committee review.

Ryan Weld

The TikTok bill was among several the Senate sent across the Capitol on Wednesday.

Both TikTok bills originated as identical bills submitted by the governor.

The Senate’s SB 426 says that the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) will develop standards regarding banned high-risk technology platforms or products. All levels of government – local governments, K-12 schools, higher education, and state entities – must enforce those standards.

In addition, all levels of government “must remove, restrict, and ban those high-risk technology platforms or products that pose a cybersecurity threat from all government systems, services, networks, devices, or locations.”

The bill contains a specific reference to TikTok. It adds exceptions for use of those platforms for law enforcement activities, national security interests and activities, security research, investigative efforts, and for purposes related to litigation involving the state or one of its agencies or officers.

CISO Danielle Cox previously told House and Senate committees that TikTok in particular contains and monitors an excessive amount of data about users movements and relationships that goes directly to the Communist Chinese government. That opens up cyberthreats of bribery, election manipulation and more.

But TikTok isn’t the only platform or technology of concern, she said. Her office and other state CISOs work with the federal government, which uses threat intelligence to review an ever-changing array of platforms and technologies to see how data is being used.

On the Senate floor on Wednesday, Judiciary vice chair Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, related an anecdote about TikTok being caught tracking the locations of two journalists who were working on a story about TikTok.

He said that the bill overall allows the state to be more fast moving in responding to threats than just banning one app.

The vote was unanimous.

The House bill, HB 2898, is essentially the same, with two significant differences. One, out of concern for separation of powers, the House bill simply recommends that agencies in the legislative and judicial branches adopt the standards and practices put forth by the CISO. And it removes the specific reference to TikTok to keep it more timeless and general.

Gas-fired power plant bill

SB 188 is the Grid Stabilization and Security Act. It opens with a series of legislative findings that say gas-fired power is highly underdeveloped in comparison to nearby states that West Virginia competes with for economically beneficial projects.

Therefore, state agencies should attempt to promote coordination, simplification, and harmonization, the findings say.

Getting to the meat of the legislation, the bill says the Department of Economic Development will identify economically viable sites for gas-fired power projects – near gas wells or pipelines, transmission infrastructure and areas that fulfill state air quality requirements.

Economic Development will inform the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Service Commission about its choice of sites. The bill then requires expedited permitting to get the projects rolling.

In committee, the bill generated some friction with the coal industry, which worried that the findings could serve to undermine coal’s interests in the state. Chris Hamilton, West Virginia Coal Association president, said he supported the bill but suggested tempering or removing the findings; but that wasn’t done.

Wednesday’s vote on the Senate floor was 28-3, with all the votes against coming from Republicans: coal miners Randy Smith, Tucker, and Rupie Phillips, Logan, along with Sen. Laura Chapman, Ohio.

Rainy Day Fund

Finance chair Eric Tarr- R-Putnam, took a few minutes at the end of the floor session to talk about the budget surplus and the Rainy Day Fund.

The January surplus, he said, was $162.2 million. The year-to-date surplus is $995,275,701.

With weaker markets, the Rainy Day Fund stands at $916,499,422, compared to $1 billion last year. State code requires the state to make a deposit into the Rainy Day Fund of up to 50% of the surplus to bring the combined A and B Rainy Day Funds balance to 20% of the prior fiscal year’s revenue expenditures.

The expenditure number they’re looking at, he said, is about $6 billion, meaning they’ll have to deposit about $300 million into the fund at the end of this year. The deposit figure could grow if markets continue to fall.

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Some Regal residents find housing following apartment fire one week ago

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In the week since the Regal Apartments fire displaced dozens of residents in Charleston, some have already found a new place to live.

John Roberts

Mountain Mission Executive Director John Roberts told MetroNews Wednesday of the 35 families who were impacted about 15-18 residents have found housing, while others continue to explore their options.

Clothing donations since the Jan. 25 fire have been overwhelming in the best way possible, Roberts said.

“We are going to be able to bless a lot of these folks with all the closing they need,” Roberts said. “We even purchased new clothing for a lot of them.”

The biggest need right now is for housing items including furniture, towels, hygiene products and more. Roberts said the best way to get items like that to residents is to make a monetary donation.

“The next phase will really be making sure that they get into the apartments, that they have the necessities like a bed and a kitchen table,” he said.

Patriot Services Group, who manages the Regal Apartments, placed families at the Best Western Hotel in downtown Charleston at no cost while they assist with permanent housing solutions.

The Regal Apartment building was demolished just hours after the fire began. Carrie Hodousek/MetroNews

Roberts said once a resident finds a new apartment or home to live in, Mountain Mission will help them restock their shelves with necessary food items and other supplies.

“When they get into their apartments for the first time, their cabinets are going to be bare,” he said. “We are willing to go in there and help them get some food in their apartments and get them started on a good foot.”

No one was hurt in the fire, but many are still trying to process what happened. All 35 occupied units in the four-story building had to be demolished. Charleston firefighters ruled the fire as undetermined.

The American Red Cross was on the ground in the moments after the fire along the Kanawha Boulevard. Regional CEO Erica Mani said they have assisted 33 clients through their case management work.

Erica Mani

“We’re working with each individual even those things like ‘have you forwarded your address through the U.S. Postal Service?'” she said.

Mani said part of their role is to help with supplemental assistance rather than physical donations like food and water.

“They’re getting wonderful support from the community with food and items, but they do need to go out and purchase their own things. The Red Cross case work team wants to make sure that they’re able to do that,” Mani said.

West Virginia Health Right helped fill prescriptions for residents who needed it. United Way has also set up a fund to help the victims recover their losses.

Mani said these issues won’t be resolved overnight, but they can continue to help make a difference each day.

“This isn’t something that will be done this week. It will go on for a couple of weeks. It is a multitude of community partners who are coming together to make sure that those folks from the Regal Apartments are taken care of,” she said.

A spokesperson with the City of Charleston said the Building Commission has been working with the property owner to begin removing the debris from the fire scene this week depending on the weather.

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Mountain railroad finally repaired after nearly 40 years

CASS,W.Va.– Work to repair damage to the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad from the 1985 flood has finally been finished.

The railroad company posted news of the completion to Facebook on Wednesday. The last stretch was a 15 mile section between Cass and Durbin in Pocahontas County. The completion was celebrated by a trip Wednesday aboard the historic Shay Number 5 engine. Number 5 rolled with a full crew to Durbin where they retrieved the famous Heisler Number 6 engine for a much anticipated return to Cass.

The devastating flood of 1985 wiped out five miles of the railroad bed, track, and a span over a tributary creek. Work to restore the line has been ongoing for several years. All of the rails and bridge have been restored. The rail line reports the Greenbrier Express will depart Cass starting in the spring to follow the free-flowing Greenbrier River to Durbin. The ride features secluded and remote wilderness areas in the West Virginia mountains.

A schedule for the trips and reservations for those rides can be made on the social media pages of the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad or at their website.

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Former GW standout Kalissa Lacy enjoying strong sophomore season at Eastern Kentucky

Kalissa Lacy had a memorable career as a member of the George Washington Patriots from 2017-2021. 

Lacy piled up multiple achievements, including three-time first-team all-state selection and a recipient of the Mary Ostrowski Award in 2020 as the state’s most outstanding player. 

However, once her prep career ended, Lacy returned to the bottom of the totem pole when she entered the college basketball world.

“It was hard, especially from the mental health aspect,” Lacy said. “As a student-athlete, your mental health is important, and you must ensure you take care of yourself. You have to maintain a good work ethic by going through it all. The harder you work, the more time you will get on the court. It will pay off in the long run.”

In her second season at Eastern Kentucky, Lacy, a 5-foot-9 guard, has appeared in 51 games. She has improved nearly every statistical category in her sophomore season, including scoring, while averaging 8.5 points for the Colonels.

“It has gone well. I have doubled my minutes since last year,” Lacy noted. “I have grown as a player and a person. My role last season was to come in and shoot the three. This season, I have become more of a threat, especially by attacking the basket. My defense has picked up. We are sharing the ball better as a team and have played well in conference play.”

Lacy’s minutes have increased on average from nearly seven to 16. She credits her work behind the scenes as a significant factor to the increase in playing time.

“I worked hard during the offseason to get in better shape and be able to play better defense,” Lacy noted. “I think the coaching staff saw that, and they saw how I have progressively gotten better on both ends of the floor.”

Lacy has scored in double figures six times this season. She recorded a career-high 17 points on November 23 against Midway, and most recently scored 12 and 16 points, respectively, against Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson, while making four 3s in each contest. For the season, Lacy is 42 for 109 (38.5 percent) on 3-pointers.

“My coaches trust me more this year than last,” Lacy said. “My teammates make sure we are all sharing the ball. We are all clicking together, and we are all trusting each other in that aspect.”

Eastern Kentucky (13-9, 6-3 Atlantic Sun) has nine regular season contests remaining, during which time Lacy hopes to continue improving. 

“I still want to adapt more on the defensive end of the floor, including drawing more charges, getting more steals, and rebounding better,” Lacy said. “I need to continue being tougher on that end of the floor. Also, I need to adapt to driving to the basket.”

Lacy’s believes maintaining balance is a big factor in her success on and off the court.

“It is important to keep a good schedule,” Lacy said. “We have a great academic center here at EKU that helps with that. We have academic advisors that help us with that, along with our coaches. Each coach is assigned a few players to meet with weekly to discuss their academics and ensure they stay on top.”

Having seen her hard work pay off in the form of becoming an impact player at the Division I level, 

Lacy offered a message to younger athletes striving to do the same.

“I would say to keep working at it,” Lacy said. “There will be days when you are tired and do not feel like going to the gym. But, go to the gym because it will be worth it in the long run.”

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Kanawha County Commission wants lawmakers to tackle utility rate hikes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission is calling on state lawmakers to intervene and put the brakes on rampant increases in West Virginia Utility bills. The Commission this week penned a letter to members of the Kanawha County Delegation for some kind of legislation which would hold the line on those constant hikes in bills for water, gas, and electricity.

“Your electric bill has gone up 200 percent in the past 15 years. People complain about egg costs right now, eggs would cost five dollars each. It is unaffordable,” said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.

The Kanawha County Commission has repeatedly challenged increases in utility bills before the state Public Service Commission, but Carper said their challenges haven’t gained much traction. He hoped lawmakers would be able to have more success to rein in the costs.

“Your electric bill will explode. The gas bill, the Public Service Commission recently stated you’re going to have sticker shock when you see your gas bill. That’s what the Public Service Commission said! Plus your water bill has doubled in the last five years,” Carper said on 580-Live on MetroNews Affiliate WCHS Radio.

Carper said the constant hikes and increases come with very little opposition because nobody wants to challenge the powerful lobbyists who represent the utilities. He hoped they have finally gained some legs in their opposition. The Commission sought two things in any bill which might come from the correspondence.

The commission would like to see a cap placed on any rate increases for any utility. They’d also like to see a requirement for a public hearing in which lawmakers conduct an actual probe into what is happening with utility bills.

“It is the ‘hidden tax.’ It’s a dirty little secret and people just can’t afford it,” said Carper.

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Governor says he’ll compromise on tax plan, but expresses frustration that session could end with no deal

Gov. Jim Justice said he was doing a cannonball when he proposed a 50 percent personal income tax cut over three years, but the governor also says he’s willing to negotiate with senators who might have misgivings.

“We’d absolutely compromise,” Justice said during a radio town hall on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

Justice has been on the road to promote his proposal of an initial 30 percent personal income tax cut, then 10 percent the following year and 10 percent the third year.

The House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a bill reflecting the tax cut proposal a couple of weeks ago. The Senate’s Republican supermajority has been more deliberative.

Asked on the radio town hall about whether he would be willing to consider other incarnations of a tax cut — for example, a cut rolling out over a longer period of time or a 30 percent cut that would stand until it’s clear the state is on solid financial ground — the governor said he would be open to various possibilities.

“At least it gets us on a real pathway,” Justice said. “On this issue, I’m as easy as you can get.”

Justice has been in communities around West Virginia to drum up support for the income tax cut proposal. But he referenced weekly breakfast meetings with House and Senate leaders to discuss the tax proposal, noting that he has missed a couple because of illness and the tax town hall events.

More and more, Justice has expressed frustration with the Senate’s Republican majority, saying they’re taking too long to settle on a tax cut.

Asked about the possibility of the regular legislative session ending without an agreement, Justice said that’s a real possibility. Today is Day 22 of the 60-day regular session.

“That not only is the risk, that may be the strategy,” he said. “From the standpoint of what’s going on on the Senate side, it may actually be the strategy — which would be catastrophic to our people. But at the end of the day, we don’t have anything back from the Senate. The Senate says they’ve got a plan. Well, where’s the plan? Where’s the beef?”

A fiscal note  assessing the governor’s tax proposal concludes it would decrease General Revenue Fund collections by about $161.8 million in fiscal 2023, a little more than $1 billion million in fiscal 2024, $1.2 billion in fiscal 2025, and almost $1.5 billion in fiscal 2026.

Right now, West Virginia is running a budget surplus just shy of a billion dollars. But that’s based on several factors, including high energy prices that have produced high-performing severance tax returns and artificially-low state revenue projections that have enforced relatively “flat” budgets for several years in a row.

Eric Tarr

Asked about the governor’s assertions, Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, said it’s important to carefully assess the effects of the tax proposal in years to come. He made reference to a long-term financial outlook that has not been produced the past few years. Senators would like to see it.

“It’s kind of surprising — surprising and not surprising because he’s not given a six-year plan. So either he doesn’t know what the expenditures are on the out years or he doesn’t care — and apparently the House doesn’t either because before they went through any of their budget hearings to figure out what the needs are in the state going forward, they went through and passed a billion-dollar reduction,” he said.

“So we can get a tax plan out and we will. Expediency is not the answer here — it’s a matter of getting it right. And media pressure and a Senate campaign by this governor is not going to force us to move in expedience and sacrifice getting this right. We want to get it right for the people of West Virginia so that it’s sustainable, it’s safe and it makes us economically competitive.”

As the gavel sounded on the Senate floor, Tarr said those safeguards have been disregarded by the governor. “So we’ll do what we need to do. We don’t need the governor in the process.”

Justice, in the radio town hall appearance, said he is confident that the proposal’s numbers work out. But he said it’s harder to navigate the personal relationships among the elected representatives who have to make the decision.

“The problem with this is personalities,” he said. “Politics. Just trying to hit at one another.”

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University’s Josh Edwards garners male McCoy Award for track prowess

— By Justin Jackson, The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It was hard work and dedication that led University High’s Josh Edwards to becoming one of the top distance runners in the state. It was his sacrifice that helped lead the Hawks to a Class AAA state track title in 2022.

For a second consecutive year, Edwards – now a freshman on the cross-country and track teams at Oregon — swept the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the state track in Charleston. He also added the 800-meter title for the first time in his career. He ran that event in a time of 1:56.12, just two seconds off the state-meet record.

Those were somewhat expected, as Edwards went through 2022 with the top times in each event. His sacrifice, UHS track coach Ed Frohnapfel said, came in Edwards switching from the 4×800 relay team and moving down to the 4×400 relay team.

“We had five guys for four spots on the 4×800, and we thought we could still win the 4×800 without Josh,” Frohnapfel said. “We were searching for points for the state championship, so I asked him if he was willing to do the 4×400, because he could take off a few seconds for us. He had no problem with it. He said, ‘Sure thing,’ and just went out and did it.”

UHS ended up taking third in the relay, giving the Hawks just enough to edge out Jefferson for the school’s first state title, 93-88.

Edwards finished tied with Huntington’s Noah Waynick for high-point scorer at 31.5 points, and has been named the 2022 McCoy Award winner, as the state’s top male athlete in track. He will be honored at the 76th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 7, at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.

“I’ve honestly kind of exceeded my own expectations, but to some extent, you have to envision yourself being there or you’ll never get there,” he said.

In the voting by the state’s sportswriters, Edwards beat out both Gus Morrison of Ritchie County and Aidan Scott of Wheeling Central, who both tied for second.

Morrison was the high-point scorer at the state meet in Class A, scoring 32 points with state titles in the 400 meters, 300 hurdles and setting a state record in the long jump at 22 feet, 6.5 inches. He was also part of Ritchie County’s 4×200 relay team that took second place.

Scott swept the individual 800, 1,600 and 3,200 titles in Class A, finishing with 30 points for the meet.

As for Edwards, the McCoy Award is another in a long line of honors during his prep career. He is a three-time winner of the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in cross-country and a two-time winner of the same honor in track.

As a high school junior, Edwards set the state-meet record in the 3,200 meters with a time of 8:52.82.

“He was the most physically talented runner I’ve coached, but what made him special, is he was also the hardest working,” Frohnapfel said. “Some guys, when you’ve had success, will start to take a little time off between seasons. That was never Josh. He never took time off, and a lot of what he did was going out on his own and pushing himself. He was very focused on being a runner.”

Edwards didn’t take up track until middle school, and had spent his earlier years playing soccer.

“I look back now and I don’t know why I didn’t sign up as a sprinter, because it’s so much easier,” Edwards joked. “My first race was a 3,200-meter and I did surprisingly well.”

He eventually gave up soccer and focused solely on distance running. By the time he was a freshman, Edwards qualified for the New Balance nationals in New York and was the only freshman that qualified for the championship race in the 3,200.

“I was the only underclassmen there. That was the most nervous I had ever been. I was just a little 5-foot-4 freshman and everyone else was so much bigger than me,” Edwards said. “After that, I sort of realized I had some sort of talent and I could go pretty big in this sport.”

Over his four years at University High, Edwards won three individual cross-country state championships, two state 3,200 and 1,600 meters titles and one 800 meters state title. In 2020, there was no state meet due to COVID-19.

“I’ve been coaching since 2006, and as far as having the total package, Josh is the only one I’ve ever had like that,” Frohnapfel said. “It was awesome to have an opportunity to coach someone of his ability and mindset.”

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