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West Virginia GOP acting chairman seeking election to position

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The acting chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party is seeking to become the party’s next official chairman.

Roman Stauffer

Roman Stauffer began serving as acting chairman earlier this month after Melody Potter resigned from the position to focus on her family.

“I have worked in the trenches of conservative politics and campaigns, helping elect Republicans across the state. My experience is all encompassing, from College Republicans to Young Republicans, to precinct worker to local county chairman, to guiding statewide campaigns to historic victories, to serving in the West Virginia Republican Party’s leadership,” Stauffer said in a press release Friday.

Stauffer most recently served as campaign manager for Gov. Jim Justice’s reelection campaign.

“I am the best person to guide our Party to transition into this next chapter,” he added.

Stauffer will serve as acting chairman until the state GOP’s winter meeting in March.

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Late run pushes Herd past FIU 89-72 to sweep the weekend

By David Walsh

MIAMI  – In a game of runs, Marshall had the best run when it counted. At the end.

Darius George banked in a 3-pointer to break a 62-62 tie and propel the Thundering Herd past Florida International, 89-72, Saturday afternoon at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center for a sweep of the two-game Conference USA series.

George’s big three came with 9:02 left in the game and triggered a strong closing surge as seen by the 27-10 scoring edge in the closing minutes.

Taveion Kinsey, the league’s top scorer at 20 per game, responded after an off Friday with 22 points and 12 rebounds, team highs in both categories and another double-double. He had 10 points in Friday’s 79-66 win.

Andy Taylor continued his strong play with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting along with six rebounds. Freshman David Early (Logan, W.Va.) hit for a career-high 14 and George closed with 10.

“The kids I thought when they got their legs back under them, they played fairly well,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said of the Herd’s post-game radio show. “Got great contributions from Early and from George. Andy’s getting better and better. TK is starting to come back to his old self.”

FIU, which has lost four straight, got to within six at 72-66 on a Dante Wilcox layup with 6:35 to play. The Herd put the clamp on that comeback with a 9-0 run to make it 81-66 with 4:05 to go.

FIU (8-8, 2-6 C-USA) entered the game averaging 11 three-pointers per game and finished 11-of-35 from behind the arc. Jauvante Hawkins led FIU with a career-high 20 points coming off the bench. He had six threes. Antonio Daye Jr. finished with 18.

“Those guys move the ball,” D’Antoni said. “You’ve got to guard them every inch. You have to cover the entire area.”

D’Antoni’s record against the Panthers now is 9-1 with nine straight wins after a loss in the first meeting after took over the Herd.

Marshall (9-4, 3-3 C-USA) returns home to play Florida Atlantic in a C-USA twinbill next weekend. Game times are Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. C-USA teams are playing on successive days over the weekend due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Attendance is limited. Saturday’s game had 128 fans due to COVID-19 protocols.

George’s go-ahead three got his coach chuckle on the sideline.

“I turned around to laugh at the assistant coaches,” D’Antoni said. “He’s always good for one bank every game. He gives you his heart.”

Early continues to progress as he continues to trim down.

“He’s responded so far,” D’Antoni said about Early’s weight loss. “It will help with his feet. Be better at the defensive end. He’s starting to do what he does in practice.”

The first half was a series of runs as well. The Panthers went on a 10-0 run to go from 15-14 behind to 24-15 ahead for its biggest lead.

Marshall would later go on 9-0 run to pull even at 24-24 and Early would moments later score to put the Herd up 28-26. George would then make a 3-pointer to give the Herd a 30-26 lead thanks to a 15-2 surge.

Taylor’s 3-point play and a three-pointer by Jannson Williams 10 seconds before halftime gave the Herd a 43-36 lead at the break.

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Saturday COVID case numbers show increase

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Technical issues caused a delay in the Saturday release of COVID-19 numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

The report, which usually is released at 10 a.m. daily, didn’t come out until just before 4 p.m.

The new numbers do show an increase in confirmed cases. Daily case numbers were 545 in Friday’s report but grew to 1,137 on Saturday. The DHHR confirmed 17 deaths in the latest report, taking the overall number to 1,872.

The deaths include an 80-year old male from Summers County, an 88-year old male from Summers County, a 65-year old female from Cabell County, an 87-year old male from Hampshire County, an 83-year old male from Wood County, an 84-year old male from Wood County, a 69-year old male from Pleasants County, a 64-year old female from Wood County, a 76-year old male from Harrison County, a 69-year old female from Preston County, a 65-year old male from Nicholas County, a 95-year old male from Lewis County, a 68-year old male from Preston County, a 62-year old male from Wood County, an 89-year old female from Wood County, an 81-year old female from Wyoming County, and a 70-year old female from Logan County.

Hospitalizations are now at 624 which is the lowest number of COVID-19 patients in the state since Dec. 6.

Most counties on the COVID-19 daily alert map are designated as gold. There were a few more gold counties reported Saturday.

West Virginia once again has the lowest estimated rate of spread in the nation. Its Rt Value Saturday was .83.

The state reported Saturday that it’s used all of the 156,300 doses of vaccine that it targeted for the first round of shots. It has used 51% of doses set aside for the second round.

.@WV_DHHR reports as of January 23, 2021, there have been 1,831,351 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 114,752 total cases and 1,872 total deaths. https://t.co/GXRv8WhpZS pic.twitter.com/FH6ljs77Ev

— WV Department of Health & Human Resources • 😷 (@WV_DHHR) January 23, 2021

Overall cases per county include Barbour (1,057), Berkeley (8,469), Boone (1,372), Braxton (721), Brooke (1,837), Cabell (6,728), Calhoun (202), Clay (324), Doddridge (393), Fayette (2,274), Gilmer (549), Grant (946), Greenbrier (2,137), Hampshire (1,302), Hancock (2,380), Hardy (1,136), Harrison (4,215), Jackson (1,545), Jefferson (3,139), Kanawha (10,628), Lewis (782), Lincoln (1,093), Logan (2,218), Marion (3,122), Marshall (2,640), Mason (1,470), McDowell (1,183), Mercer (3,795), Mineral (2,403), Mingo (1,847), Monongalia (6,741), Monroe (849), Morgan (848), Nicholas (990), Ohio (3,218), Pendleton (518), Pleasants (749), Pocahontas (545), Preston (2,336), Putnam (3,647), Raleigh (3,883), Randolph (2,085), Ritchie (527), Roane (437), Summers (645), Taylor (955), Tucker (430), Tyler (540), Upshur (1,406), Wayne (2,220), Webster (236), Wetzel (952), Wirt (310), Wood (6,302), Wyoming (1,477).

 

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Park and Preserve status brings change at New River Gorge

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — The much-talked-about plan to turn the New River Gorge National River in West Virginia into the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is complete.

Although the matter had been discussed and debated for more than a year, the passage of the measure in an omnibus spending package in December was a surprise to some.

Lizzie Watts

Park Superintendent Lizzie Watts said the changes won’t be all that noticeable.

“I’m not sure there will be a lot of change. There will be some where we’ve reduced hunting in the Gorge, but I think what the Park and Preserve does is really highlight the four most spectacular parts of the park,” Watts said.

Those fours parts include the deepest section of the Gorge in the area of the New River Gorge Bridge and downstream, the historical area surrounding the town of Thurmond, Sandstone Falls, and Grandview.

“Those areas visitors from around the world and even our neighbors know are very special environments. So those are the areas that were put into the park,” she said.

Watts added the change elevated the status of the New River Gorge area in the eyes of the nation.

“It does state we are one oft the more significant natural resources. When you become a National Park you’re one of the more significant areas in the country,” she said.

The change was pushed hardest by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito and later with support from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. Rafting companies and those whose business depends on visitors were also strong backers. Advocates of the park touted the elevated status as one which will automatically increase visitors. But not everybody was on board, as Watts mentioned, local hunters had to give up territory which had long been hunting grounds for generations.

The gorge on a wintry day.(Photo/Adventures on the Gorge)

Robert Seay has fished and hunted in the Gorge with his family for decades. He told West Virginia Public Broadcasting the loss of those traditional hunting grounds was crushing.

“It’s not just about the hunting. The deer or the game is just a bonus. It’s doing what your family’s done where you learned to do it.” said Seay. “I learned to hunt in the gorge — with my father — that’s where I learned trees, learned direction.”

Some have rationalized much of the land which was put off limits to hunting with the National Park status was extremely rugged terrain and not conducive to hunting. Seay explained to Public Broadcasting, the argument is a non-starter.

“It is tough hunting. It is tough country. And that’s why those animals are there. That’s why those deer are there, because they’re not easy to get to.” he said.

Watts acknowledged hunters were the one group forced to make a sacrifice. She said they tried to offer a concession by opening up some federal property which had long been off limits to hunting.

“Because we had some hunters who were concerned about losing any acreage to hunting, we did decide to open some of the area of Grandview that has not been hunted in over 100 years because it used to be a State Park before the National River was created. We will open some of that to hunting to offset some of the areas they’ll be losing in the Gorge,” Watts explained.

According to Watts, about 300 acres in the Grandview area in the lower area along the river will be the new area available for hunters this fall.

As for how much the new park status will generate in new visitors, Watts said it’s hard to say.

“We anticipate some, but we don’t know how much. Covid has changed the world and visitation to a lot of park areas went up, just because the outdoors are now known to a whole new generation of folks who probably had never been in the outdoors. We don’t know how to anticipate what that will do for this year,” she said.

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Little changes to unemployment in December

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s unemployment rate remained consistent through December, in sync with the national trend.

According to WorkForce West Virginia, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.3% in December compared to the national 6.7% rate.

The number of unemployed West Virginians increased by 100 people to 48,600, while total employment grew by 3,400 positions over a month.

West Virginia’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 5.8% to 6.1% in December.

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Report: Clint Trickett to join Marshall coaching staff

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.FootballScoop.com is reporting that former WVU signal caller Clint Trickett will be joining Charles Huff’s first coaching staff at Marshall. The report indicates that Trickett will coach receivers for the Herd.

After wrapping up his playing career with the Mountaineers after the 2014 season, Trickett started his coaching career at East Mississippi Community College. He was later hired as the tight ends coach at Florida Atlantic. Trickett was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach this past season.

Clint’s father, Rick was a longtime offensive line coach and for the Mountaineers and his brother, Travis is currently WVU’s tight ends and inside receivers coach.

Reports indicate that WVU assistant Bill Legg is also under consideration for a spot on the Marshall coaching staff.

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1,000 fans allowed at Coliseum events starting Jan. 30

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Starting with next Saturday’s WVU-Florida men’s basketball game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, a thousand fans will be allowed entry to events at the WVU Coliseum.

For men’s basketball games, no tickets will be made available to the general public. Mountaineer Athletic Club members at the Mountaineer Scholar level and higher will be contacted about ticket and parking availability in the coming days.

Information for students to obtain men’s basketball tickets will be released next week and ticket information for WVU women’s basketball, gymnastics and wrestling will be released separately prior to those home events.

Ticketing priority will be given to families and guests of the players and coaching staffs, as they have received throughout December and January.

“We are pleased to be able to welcome a limited number of fans back into the Coliseum for our home events,” WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said. “Safety will continue to be our priority as we still must manage the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is a start to getting Mountaineer fans back to where they want to be. We have put a lot of work into the Coliseum as we celebrate its 50th anniversary, and Jan. 30 will be a great moment when we can open the doors to a limited capacity.”

 

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Christmas wreathes from National Cemetery live on as fish habitat

GRAFTON, W.Va. — Christmas wreathes which offered a special look to the National Cemetery in Grafton during the holiday season will live on as fish habitat in Taylor County. Members of the West Virginia BASS Nation and other organizations gathered in recent days to remove the wreathes from the graves at the cemetery and transferred them to the exposed area of Tygart Lake during the winter draw down.

Members of the fishing organization decided to start the conservation project a year ago.

“The wreathes would get thrown away after they were taken off the graves. Rather than having to pay to have them thrown away, we thought why not see if we could make them into some fish habitat and it’s evolved from there,” said Jerod Harman, Conservation Director of WV BASS Nation.

During the 2019 effort wreathes were assembled on PVC pipes connected and anchored with cinder blocks in rows along the lake bottom. The idea was to arrange them so the pipes could be disconnected and new wreathes added in future years. But Harman said there were obstacles to the plan.

“If the lakebed isn’t frozen it gets really mucky. Last year we had a heck of a time walking around out there and trying to get things placed. We thought if we could find a way to place those with a piece of equipment, rather than walking around, it would be a lot easier,” he explained.

The new arrangement is an old wooden pallet with a pipe frame attached. The wreathes are threaded onto the pipes to resemble the shape of a cube. The pallets made it simple to load, unload, and place the cubes using a tractor with a fork.

“Low and behold it work really well,” Harman said.

Harman said their new method allowed for the pallets and frames to be assembled ahead of time so the cube can literally be built at the cemetery, then simply unloaded at the lake with a machine. It makes for less work, less time, and officials are hoping to potentially expand the program to other lakes in the region.

“It’s going to continue to get bigger. We’re going to do more expanding, but it takes more people and it take money,” he said.

Harman encouraged people to donate to the Wreathes Across America program which is responsible for placing the wreathes on each veteran’s grave. BASS Nation covered the cost of materials and volunteers and Division of Natural Resources personnel provided the labor.

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Multiple DOH workers test positive for coronavirus, limiting workforce in parts of northern West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The number of workers available to treat some northern West Virginia highways for winter weather are limited after four Monongalia County garage employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mike Cronin, the West Virginia Division of Highways’ District 4 engineer, confirmed the test results to MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM.

Cronin also shared there are new rules for employees to prevent future absences; workers will not be allowed to work if they are sick.

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Kaiden Pack looks to lead Greenbrier West back in Charleston

— Story by Taylor Kennedy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Basketball teams all across the state are preparing for the beginning of the season. Greenbrier West senior guard Kaiden Pack is grateful that he finally has an understanding of when he can step back onto the court.

“I did not get my hopes up anymore after he [Governor Jim Justice] canceled it in February and moved it to March 1st all I said was ‘whatever, I am not going to get my hopes up.’ I was going to wait until AAU season and play then, but now that he actually has a date set for February 15th, I have been going through our normal routine,” said Pack.

When Governor Justice announced the dates for the beginning of the season, coaches and students were filled with excitement as they finally knew when they could begin their seasons. Pack was the same way. He says that he was excited to know a date.

“It disappointed me that we were not going to have a season at the time. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was so happy that we were actually going to get to play. I am going to get to play with my teammates again for my senior year. That is what I was most excited about,” said Pack.

Pack played quarterback this past season for Greenbrier West’s undefeated regular season. The Cavaliers finished last season with a 9-1 record. During the season, teams had to deal with the uncertainty of playing due to the school’s county color. Pack thinks it will be different because his coach, Jared Robertson, has numerous back-up plans.

“During the football season, we were blessed to play as many games as we did. We got to play a lot more games than other teams. I was talking to Coach Rob, and he said that he jammed packed our basketball schedule. Even if we do miss a couple of games, we are going to have games back-to-back-to-back. I am not too worried about us missing games due to the map. I feel like we will always be ready,” said Pack.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has allowed athletes to work on different skills and even develop new ones. Pack says that he has been working on limiting his turnovers and honing in on ball security.

“I had a lot of turnovers last season. I think I had eight to nine turnovers per game. I asked my teammates and coaches what I should work on during quarantine to be better. During quarantine, I have been working on making better basketball decisions, not throwing stupid passes, not throwing the ball away, and working on my ball-handling so it does not get poked away from me. I have been focusing on smart basketball instead of out of control basketball,” said Pack.

The constructive criticism that Pack received helped him gain trust with his teammates. He is glad that he can rely on his teammates to be there for him.

“We are also going to tell you how it is. If you are doing something wrong, we are not going to flip out, but we are going to tell you how to fix it. I think that has really helped me. In my freshman year, I had a shaky relationship with my teammates. Now, I think it has helped me understand more on how to be more coachable and more bonding with my teammates,” said Pack.

Pack also says that the relationship he has with Coach Robertson is something he will cherish and appreciates.

“We have a really tight bond. I message him all the time. I like to joke around with him,” said Pack. “If you have a really good relationship with your coach, I think you will have a really great season.”

Dual-sport athletes sometimes carry over tendencies from one sport to the other, which allows them to be diverse in the specific sport. Pack says that the vocal skills will translate from the gridiron onto the hardwood.

“I feel like I was the more vocal guy on the field. I think other people looked up to me to be in that leading role, and how I reacted to other stuff. I feel like for my football teammates looking up to me and me being that vocal leader I can bring that onto the court. If we are down, I feel like I can boost their confidence,” said Pack.

The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) released a new four-class system, which realigned the three classes that everybody has known over the years. Pack sees this as an opportunity for his team to have a better chance of making the state tournament.

“I see this being a better chance of us making the state tournament. The reclassification moved Charleston Catholic up a few classes, which means I do not have to deal with Zion Suddeth’s defense and Aiden Satterfield’s offense because those are two things you do not look forward to following a Monday math class. I feel like it really distributes the talent, and it gives other teams chances of making the state tournament and getting a shot at a ring,” said Pack

Greenbrier West will begin its season at home as the Cavaliers will welcome in Tug Valley on March 5th.

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