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Sports in West Virginia
Whether you like to cheer for the home team or prefer to be the one scoring, West Virginia offers plenty of entertainment for sports fans and sports enthusiasts. There are collegiate and minor league teams of every stripe as well as plenty of opportunities for amateur enthusiasts looking for a sports getaway in the Mountain State.
The Princeton Rays regularly play minor league baseball to packed home crowds – and they often travel a short 12 miles to play against cross-town rivals the Bluefield Blue Jays, who fight annually for the Mercer Cup. The West Virginia Power play Class A ball affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates and enjoy dozens of home games each season at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston – the park has great views and tickets are dirt cheap.
The West Virginia Black Bears in Morgantown are also affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates and play in the New York-Penn League. Professional ice hockey is big time in Wheeling, where the Wheeling Wailers hold court in the East Coast Hockey League. The team has a distinguished alumni list and during the season hosts teams from Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Toledo.
College sports are big in West Virginia, and year-round you’ll find a packed play calendar featuring some of the best young athletes in the nation. The biggest name in college sports is that of the West Virginia Mountaineers. This Division 1 school competes in Big 12 and MAC conference games and is dominated by the football team, which holds 15 titles and has been home to 11 All-Americans.
The baseball team has made 12 NCAA tournament appearances and the men’s basketball team has been to the Final Four twice. The school’s rifle team has won more national titles than any rifle team in America, while the women’s rowing team has made 11 NCAA tournament appearances. Women’s soccer and swimming have also produced All-Americans. The school also has winning volleyball, gymnastic, track, tennis, and wrestling teams.
West Virginia Tech fields the Golden Bears – the men’s soccer team has won a national championship and the men’s basketball team has won a conference title, as has the women’s basketball team. Other Golden Bear teams compete in cross-country, softball, swimming, and volleyball.
West Virginia State University is home to the Yellow Jackets, and you can watch football, baseball, basketball, gold tennis, softball, and volleyball – and don’t miss the Yellow Jackets Marching Band, which has won elite competitions.
The Ohio Valley University Fighting Scots field 16 teams equally divided between men and women – major programs include basketball, track and field, lacrosse, and golf. The Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals are a top NCAA Division II baseball team. Marshall University first fielded a football team in 1895, and today the Thundering Herd also competes in softball, swimming and diving, tennis, volleyball, basketball, and more. Tiny Davis & Elkins College plays baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and swimming, and more – all from a study body of less than 850 students!
If you prefer to follow your own sports dreams, West Virginia offers plenty of opportunities for play. From disc golf to roller derby, you’ll find a field of your own to score on.
West Virginia is one of the top spots in America for BASE jumping – that’s the sport where people throw themselves from fixed objects. Bridge Day is the epicenter of the action, and each October the bridge over the New River Gorge closes to vehicular traffic while brave souls leap 800 feet into the canyon below. You can watch the fun or register for a jump yourself.
Ready for an entirely new sport? Sign up for footgolf! Several golf courses around the state permit this unique sport, which pairs a #5 soccer ball and shorter holes fitted with 21-inch wide cups. It’s like golf, but instead of a club you use your feet. Try it out at Pipestem Resort State Park and the Riverbend Golf Club in Fairmont.
The state has seven sanctioned roller derby teams – you can see action in spots like Morgantown, Bluefield, and Charleston. There are also plenty of disc golf courses open to the public – top spots include Coonskin Park, The Black Course in Moundsville, Barboursville City Park, Greenbrier State Forest, and Dorsey’s Knob.
One of the nation’s craziest Irish festivals takes place each year in Charleston, and one sport sums it all up – Irish Road Bowling. Here, competitors throw a metal ball along a predetermined course which snakes along country roads. It’s fun to watch and play!
West Virginia might not strike you as traditional ski country, but the state is home to one of the nation’s oldest ski races, the Governors Cup, which is held every March at Canaan Valley and Timberline. Sign up for giant slalom and slalom races, show up early to inspect the course, and wax your skis before attempting a fast run to end the ski season.