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Colin C. Rhodes: Column: Marion County school pride seen best in the stands

Mar. 7—CHARLESTON — The stage was set for the AAA girls basketball quarterfinal in the Civic Center. No. 1 East Fairmont and No. 8 Weir took to the court for warm-ups in front of fans for both teams in the stands.

There was a clear difference in the size of fans, however. East Fairmont's fan section behind its bench seemed at least double the size of Weir's fan section opposite the court of its bench. East Fairmont also boasted a full-sized student section on one end of the court.

The East Fairmont crowd, boosted by its size, drowned out the cheers of Weir's fans easily. Even though the stands were mostly empty, it felt like a home environment for East Fairmont.

Senior Kenly Rogers even mentioned the community support during the post-game press conference when asked about being part of the team that won the program's second-ever state tournament game.

"I grew up at East, so seeing this program be completely flipped around just by the attitude of our coaches and the attitude of our girls and the support from our community is absolutely terrific," Rogers said. "It's really cool to be a part of that."

Pardon this pun, but the buzz around the Bees is loud and proud. The girls basketball games at East Fairmont this year have had some of the best atmospheres I've witnessed. The Jan. 30 game against then No. 3 ranked Lewis County was the most packed gymnasium I've ever seen.

And really, this is a small taste of the support Marion County has for its high school sports teams. The love for these schools is expressed best at sporting events.

During football season, all the intra-county games had stands filled to the brim. The season opener when East Fairmont traveled to North Marion? Packed. When North Marion visited Fairmont Senior halfway through the season? Packed. The East-West Game? Filled to the brim, as it should be.

While football and basketball are the two biggest high school sports, that doesn't mean the other sports aren't supported by a solid fanbase. I can remember a number of soccer games at East-West Stadium where fans filled up a good portion of the bleachers.

Wrestling was also really popular. I saw a lot of Marion County high school fans in the stands in Huntington at the state wrestling tournament. And during home matches, the gymnasiums got as load as basketball games at times with how hyped up people were.

And fans aren't always exclusively supporting one team over the other two. Sometimes in the comments of Facebook posts, I see people call themselves supporters of one school and congratulate a team from another school.

It really shows the larger support for the county as a whole the Marion County community holds. Whether a person is from East Side, West Side or Mannington, it's likely they'll support whichever school gets the furthest in the postseason.

With the winter sports seasons coming to a close, it makes me excited to see Marion County's support of its spring sports teams knowing how much it backs the fall and winter teams. Here's to good seasons for baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis and track and field!

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548