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Weighty West Virginians

This column is not about fat shaming, but rather an acknowledgment of this fact: West Virginians are too heavy.

Well, not everyone, but a significant percentage.  New figures from the Trust for America’s Health show that West Virginian’s obesity rate is 39.5 percent, and that’s up one percent from the previous year.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m 5’-9” and fluctuate between 169 and 175 pounds.  I’ve tried—half-heartedly—to lose 10 pounds for the last two years through moderate changes in diet and exercise, with no luck.   I’m also pre-diabetic.

So, this is not a commentary about “you people.” It’s about yet another challenge that goes with being a West Virginian.

According to the Trust report, we are tied with Mississippi for having the highest rates of adult obesity, followed by Arkansas, Louisiana and Kentucky.  If you have any friends or relatives in Colorado, just don’t talk to them for awhile, since they will probably remind you that they have the lowest adult obesity rate—23 percent.

The health risks of being too heavy are well known—increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, some kinds of cancer, gallbladder disease and gallstones, gout and breathing problems such as sleep apnea.

Obesity is expensive.  The Trust reports that treating illnesses associated with weight “increases national health care spending by $149 billion annually (about half of which is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.”  Additionally, being overweight is the most common reason young adults are ineligible for military service, according to the Trust.

Our Mountain State weight problem is not that surprising since we’re also a poor state, and there is a connection between obesity and poverty.  Studies reviewed by the American Diabetes Association found that “counties with poverty rates of greater than 35 percent have obesity rates 145 percent higher than wealthier counties.”

There are many reasons why—less access to healthy foods, more sedentary lifestyles, fewer options for recreation.  We all know many areas of West Virginia that fit those descriptions.

The Trust for America’s Health suggests expanding Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), increasing the price of sugary drinks through excise taxes, adding more money to evidence-based obesity prevention strategies and even making it more difficult to market unhealthy food to children (I’m not sure how you could do that one).

I don’t have the answers—shoot, I can’t even lose a few pounds—but I do know that this is yet another challenge in West Virginia that weighs us down—figuratively and literally—as we try to get ahead.

Like most predicaments, finding a solution begins with acknowledging that the problem exists.  Consider that part done.


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Hiking group, friends create garden honoring helicopter crash victim

BECKLEY, W.Va. – Deb Evans considers Paula Wykle to be one of her best friends. She recalled the friendship began in the Junior Women’s Club of Beckley, which lead to the creation of a local hiking group, the Happy Hikers.

“The exercise is great, but the support and the therapy that we get from one another just can’t be beat,” Evans told MetroNews.

Evans also remembers where she was in July when she heard Wykle’s daughter, Delaney, died in a helicopter crash in the Bahamas.

“I was golfing with two of my children. We were on the seventh hole at Grandview and got a text from the mother saying, ‘My baby died today,” she said.

“My kids and I left the golf course immediately … I’ll always remember where I was and what was going on when I heard the news. Things like that are game changers for everyone’s life and especially her family’s life. It was very devastating, and still is,” she said.

Delaney Wykle was among the seven victims of the Independence Day incident. The helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing everyone on board.

More than two months later, friends of the Wykle family are doing something to honor Delaney Wykle’s life; they will dedicate a garden honoring her on Wednesday.

The garden is located at the Paul Cline Memorial Soccer Complex along the Grey Flat Trails.

Delaney Wykle, who was 22 when she died, graduated from West Virginia University in May and planned to work as a registered nurse at Raleigh General Hospital.

Evans said Delaney Wykle was an “exceptional lady.”

“She was a beautiful young lady, but her heart was as pretty as she was. She was just very kind, caring and compassionate,” she said.

“She also loved adventure,” Evans added. “When the word adventure came up, she was usually up for it. She was just a really special lady.”

A sign at the garden reads, “In loving memory of Delaney Wykle, planted in memory of a life so beautifully lived …a heart so deeply loved.” Evans said she hopes Delaney Wykle’s family and friends find comfort when they visit the site.

“Sometimes, you’re dealt things that are really difficult to deal with, but hopefully, with the help of friends and family, you’ll get through it,” she said. “This garden signifies everything that was beautiful about Delaney and a lasting tribute to her family.”

The formal dedication ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. Evans noted the reason the ceremony is on Wednesday is the day marks what would have been Delaney Wykle’s 23rd birthday.

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First summit held regarding dangers of misusing drugs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Thousands of students and educators packed the WVU Coliseum on Tuesday for the first of two youth opioid summits scheduled for this week.

The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activity Commission helped organize a speaker series to help students understand the dangers of misusing drugs.

Around 7,000 high school students attended the summit.

Erin Parsons, who teaches at John Marshal High School, said the event served as a valuable learning opportunity for students.

“I see for our students a lot of them are dealing with problems at home that many of us in the educational field may not have familiarity with,” she said.

Former NBA player Chris Herren and Rhonda Sciortino were among the speakers; Herren speaks at engagements across the country about his addiction to opioids, and Sciortino grew up in a household affected by addiction.

The event also had a “speaker for the dreamer,” Shaun Derek.

“We really want to let them know that we care about them, there are things they can do about it and most young people are drug-free,” he said.

“Young people are what we call ‘sober curious.’ They want to know how to be more sober and do healthier activities instead of things that are harmful for their future.”

A similar summit will take place Wednesday at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington.

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Former WVU running back Crawford pleads guilty to child molestation

Former West Virginia running back Justin Crawford will spend the next 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of child molestation and sodomy in his hometown of Columbus, Ga.

Crawford pleaded guilty in his Tuesday appearance at the Muscogee County Superior Court, as reported by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

The sentence calls for 20 years, with the final eight to be on probation. Crawford will also have to register as a sex offender at the end of his sentence and stay away from all children under 18, including his own three children. The prosecution dropped three additional felony charges as a result of Crawford’s guilty plea.

Crawford was arrested on Oct. 13 of last year after admitting to having sex with a 12-year-old girl who was sleeping on the couch at his home. Crawford’s justification for his actions when speaking to police was that it was “the girl’s idea.” The child told police that Crawford woke her up and asked for oral sex before engaging in intercourse.

Crawford played for West Virginia from 2016-17 after transferring from Northwest Mississippi Community College. He rushed for 2,237 yards and 11 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Mountaineers. Despite only having two years in the program, his rushing total ranks 11th in West Virginia history.

Crawford’s 331-yard game against Oklahoma in 2016 is the third-best rushing performance in WVU history.

Crawford signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent, but was cut just days before the start of the 2018 regular season.

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West Virginia defense needs to treat whole game like second half

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — If games started at halftime, West Virginia’s defense would be one of the nation’s most formidable units.

The Mountaineer defense has yet to allow a second-half touchdown through three games. The only time an opponent has crossed the goal line after halftime was on an interception return by Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton. Opposing offenses are gaining an average of 109 yards against West Virginia in the second half.

The building blocks for a dominant defense are certainly there. But West Virginia ranks only 61st nationally in total defense and 74th in scoring defense.

So what gives?

“It’s a credit to the defensive coaches,” coach Neal Brown said of the second-half surges. “But the first thing is we have to play better in the first half.”

Brown said the circumstances of each game have been slightly different even though each has netted similar results.

“The first game, you’re not sure what to expect against a new coaching staff. We were able to make adjustments,” Brown said. “Second game, the whole first half was bad football, so we were able to refocus the guys. In this game, North Carolina State had not shown much at all on offense in its first two games. It was almost like their first game again.

“We were able to make adjustments on defense at halftime. I’m glad we are getting better in second half, but I’d like to do it from the beginning.”

His players feel the same way about the issue.

“We finish well. We just need to emphasize more on the start,” said senior defensive back JoVanni Stewart. “Your demeanor going into the game — you shouldn’t have to get punched in the mouth to wake up and then want to play the game.”

Senior cornerback Keith Washington says the Mountaineers play with a “finish” mentality. Now they have to find the appropriate starting mentality to match it with.

“We’ve been trying to work on starting out fast,” Washington said. “When the second half begins we come out with a ‘finish’ mentality. Now we’re working on putting together a whole game.”

Neal Brown pre-Kansas press conference

West Virginia came close to figuring out how to start a game against North Carolina State. The Mountaineers were on the verge of opening the game with a three-and-out, but defensive lineman Reuben Jones was called for a late hit on Wolfpack quarterback Matthew McKay. N.C. State was able to flip field position on what then became an 11-play, 46-yard drive.

A strong 60 minutes of Mountaineer defense may be as simple as cleaning up the mental mistakes.

“The message to our players is that we can be as good as we want to be,” said defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. “Sometimes it isn’t as much physical as it is emotional and between the ears… we play physical and with our hair on fire, but we need the little ‘play smart’ part in there. There was 15 plays more than we should have had [Saturday] because on third downs where we got them off the field, we gave them the ball back [with penalties].

“We have a lot of work to get better, and we look forward to coaching it up to get better.”

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Top high school basketball talent will once again be on display at CRC

Greg Carey/

Mel Stephens’ Wheeling Central Catholic boys basketball team will be featured in this year’s CRC against Butler, Pa.


WHEELING, W.Va. — Some of the best high school basketball in the nation will once again be on display in Wheeling next season.

The 13th annual Cancer Research Classic (CRC) is sponsored by Wheeling Hospital and will be held January 3-4, 2020, at WesBanco Arena.

Teams scheduled to play in next year’s event include: La Lumiere (La Porte, In.), DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Bishop Walsh (Cumberland, Md.), Sunrise Christian (Bel Aire, Ks.), Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.), Norcross (Norcross, Ga.), Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.), ISA Andrews Osborne (Willoughby, Ohio), Wasatch (Mt. Pleasant, Ut.) and Huntington St. Joseph Prep.

In addition, two regional will games will take place: Wheeling Park vs. TBA and Wheeling Central Catholic vs. Butler (Butler, Pa).

Fifty-six players featured in the CRC are playing in the NBA, including R.J. Barrett, Bol Bol, Jalen Brunson, Bruno Fernando, Jerami Grant, Stanley Johnson, Nassir Little, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jahlil Okafor, Chuma Okeke, Jabari Parker, Jordan Poole, Cam Reddish, Naz Reid, D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons, P.J. Washington and Andrew Wiggins. 

“Once again, this year’s Classic features several perennial powerhouses and marquee players. All games will be broadcast on one of the ESPN family of networks,” said CRC Director Dr. Gregory Merrick, executive director of the Schiffler Cancer Center, Urologic Research Institute and Men’s Health Center, all at Wheeling Hospital.

Tickets will go on sale in October and several pricing and seating options will be available: Courtside, floor, reserved and general admission. 

Tickets and a seating map will be available at the WesBanco Arena Box Office, online at or by calling 304-233- 4470 or 800-514-3849. 

A special group admission package is available to middle schools, high schools, travel teams, AAUs and any other basketball organization. 

This package cannot be purchased at the gate and is only available by calling the Men’s Health Center at 304-243-8813. Deadline is December 27. 

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Rand man convicted in death of 8-month old girl

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Rand man is facing a minimum of 30 years in prison after being convicted of killing an 8-month old girl in June of last year.

William Ellis Bowen IV, 34, was found guilty by a 12-member jury Tuesday afternoon inside the Kanawha County Circuit Court of murder of a child by refusal and failure to supply necessities, and death of a child by child abuse.

The conviction stems from the June 25 death of Lillyann Aubriana Hudson, who was the daughter of Bowen’s then-girlfriend Chellbie Hudson. Hudson had taken the stand on Monday and had already pleaded guilty to child neglect resulting in death in the incident in August.

Murder of a child by refusal and failure to supply necessities is a form of first-degree murder under state law, which could be a life sentence. The jury recommended that Chief Judge Joanna Tabit give Bowen mercy when she hands down his sentence, meaning he could have a hearing in front of a parole board after serving 15 years in prison.

The second conviction of death of a child by child abuse is between 15 years to life in prison.

The 8-month old was found barely breathing by Hudson on June 23 after being in a room with Bowen, according to Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Miller and Assistant Prosecutor Adam Petry. They argued that Bowen injured the girl and then did not seek
medical attention for her, which ultimately cost the infant her life.

Joan Phillips, co-medical director of the CAMC Children’s Advocacy Center, was the final witness to take the stand Tuesday morning and said Hudson’s life could have been saved with proper medical attention right away.

Phillips described the injuries she noticed while examining Hudson at CAMC.

“She had bruising that was visible on her forehead, on the left upper eyelid, on the right lower part of her abdomen, and the left upper arm,” Phillips said.

There has not been a scheduled sentence date for Bowen.

Hudson and Bowen are incarcerated at South Central Regional Jail.

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Funeral for Alex Miller set for Saturday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Funeral services for a Roane County High School student will take place this Saturday at the school.

Alex Miller, 17, of Spencer, died Friday during a football game in Clay County.

Courtesy Photo

Alex Miller

According to the Taylor-Vandale Funeral Home, the funeral service will be Saturday at 4 p.m. A visitation will be held between 11 a.m. and the start of the funeral service.

The funeral home also said Alex’s body will be cremated, and his ashes will be buried at the Short Cemetery in Boggs Fork at a later date.

The family is requesting donations instead of flowers; the money will fo toward a scholarship fund. Checks should be made payable to the Miller Family, c/o Principal Bill Heis; 1 Raider Way; Spencer, West Virginia 25276.

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Concord Esports team looking forward to competition

ATHENS, W.Va. — It’s been long hours for Jake Neerland since he took the position of head coach for Concord University’s new Esports program in the spring.

For him, it’s all been worth it as the team’s official rosters are set to be announced in the coming weeks followed by trips across the region to tournaments.

Neerland, 23 from Davenport, Iowa, spoke with MetroNews on Tuesday about how the program was progressing after the institution announced adding the team along with an arena for them earlier this year.

Photo provided

Jake Neerland

He said the support from the school has been outstanding.

“It helps when Dr. (Kendra) Boggess herself is the one that spurred this,” Neerland said. “She was the one that said ‘let’s do this.’ I have had her approval for some of my crazier ideas.”

The CU roster will feature one team in League of Legends, one Overwatch and two for Call of Duty, with one being a varsity and another acting as a JV team. Players on each roster will specialize in only that game.

Right now, Neerland said he expects around 30 athletes on the complete roster, with another 10 students helping the team in roles such as digital content, sponsorship, graphic design, video editing, and videographer. He estimated when the rosters get released to the public by the end of the month that more than half of the competitors will be from West Virginia.

Neerland is looking forward to growing that roster even more in the next year, with a full two semesters in recruiting under his belt. He would like a JV type squad for all three games.

“I am looking at that for next year, especially for the League of Legends and Overwatch rosters,” Neerland said.

“We’d like to fill out the actual rosters where we have B teams, substitutes and analysts.”

According to him, there will be a veteran presence on the roster with three students on Call of Duty that have been in competitive gaming for years along with three on the League of Legends team and one on Overwatch. Neerland added that the roster is full of transfer and new freshman students to Concord.

Concord has registered those three eSports teams with the National Association of Collegiate eSports but competition in their leagues will not begin until the spring semester. The team will take to the road this semester, including a trip to Clarksville, Tennessee for competition.

“West Virginia Wesleyan has a League of Legends team and I have a League of Legends team. I think that is an inherent rivalry,” Neerland said of competition he is looking forward to.

“I have a player from Tennessee in Call of Duty so any Tennessee teams in Call of Duty I plan on crushing into the ground.”

Finishing touches are being put on an arena for the team inside the Nick Rahall Technology Center on campus. Hardware, desks, chairs, and jerseys are all ready to go when the competitors hit the controllers.

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WVU coach Neal Brown pays tribute to Roane County player Alex Miller

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia head coach Neal Brown paid tribute to late Roane County football player Alex Miller at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

“On behalf of our football program, I want to offer our condolences to the family of Alex Miller and his friends, teammates as well as everyone in Roane County,” Brown said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them. It’s a really sad event. I wanted to make sure everyone in Spencer and Roane County knew that we are thinking about them.”

#WVU Head Coach Neal Brown offered his sympathies and condolences to the Roane County community after the death of Alex Miller: #wvprepfb

— MetroNews HS Sports (@MetroNewsPrep) September 17, 2019

Miller, a senior football player at Roane County, died after collapsing on the field in-between the first and second quarters of his team’s game against Clay County on Friday night.

Brown joined many in West Virginia by wearing maroon-and-gray on Tuesday as part of a statewide “Maroon Out” to show support for the school. As Brown noted, those were his school colors at Troy, so it was easy for him to participate.

“It’s just a tough deal,” Brown said. “I read about it and have been following it, and obviously that’s why I broke out some old Troy shirts today to have maroon on. It’s a sad deal all the way around.”

Brown said he had attempted to reach out to Roane County coach Paul Burdette, but had not heard back as of Tuesday morning. Though he did not go into details, Brown indicated that the program “has some things planned out” to help Roane County through the grieving process.

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