The long, grassy stretches and rolling hills of Beeson Park were the backdrop for many great performances Saturday.
From the gun, it was clear that Eliza Dekker (Durham Academy) was in charge. Behind her the front-runners strung out a bit, with Sydney Foreman (Ardrey Kell) and Rebekah Greengrass (Panther Creek) between the leader and the first pack. Teammates Mary Grace Doggett and Sophie Ebihara (Cardinal Gibbons), Maura McDonnell (Green Hope), and Malia Ellington (Community School of Davidson) were at the front of that main group.
Doggett and Ebihara moved forward over the second half of the race, which has been their preferred strategy in several races this year. In the end, though, they were unable to catch Dekker, who won for the second year in a row, clocking 17:50 this time. The Gibbons duo ran under 18:10 for the first time, and will have a great chance to break 18 when they return to Beeson Park in three weeks. Foreman finished fourth, and McDonnell rounded out the top five. In team scores, Cardinal Gibbons edged Green hope for the title, winning by only three points, with Leesville Road third.
This race had the largest and most competitive lead pack of the day, with as many as ten runners involved early and six still in contention with 800m left in the race. None of the leaders seemed to want to force the pace, which made for a tactical race that allowed a lot of runners to hang around the lead. Patrick Sheehan (Lake Norman) led most of the way, although Asher Smith-Rose (Broughton) also took a turn in the front at one point. Asher's teammate Jeremy Brown was right in the mix throughout, as was AJ Tucker (Cedar Ridge). Dylan Johnson (Hayesville) stayed in the back of the lead pack for the majority of the race, while Andrew Krivskey (Mount Tabor) was an early part of it.
There were still four runners within shot of the win over the last 400 meters, but Sheehan was able to maintain his slight lead to the finish line. Smith-Rose and Brown scored a 2-3 finish for Broughton, while Caleb Smith (Patrick County VA) wass able to fight through the early crowd to finish fourth. Behind him, 1A West rivals Johnson and Boone waged war all the way to the line, with Dylan claiming the last spot in the top 5. Cardinal Gibbons was able to secure the team win, led by NIck Tyrey (8th) and Mario Lund (10th); Broughton was second despite missing two of their regular top 5 runners.
The early lead went to Madison Simmons (Cuthbertson), who was closely tailed by Hana Ratcliffe (Durham School of the Arts). The second pack contained teammates Mallary Price and Morgan Garrett of Weddington, as well as their Union County rival Melanie Hussey (Marvin Ridge).
Simmons held on for a strong wire-to-wire win, but it was the group behind her that proved interesting. Over the final mile, the Providence girls rose through the ranks to place three in the top 10, including runner-up Bianca Bishop. Maddie Ringenbach (Ravenscroft) also finished strong to take 3rd place. On the strength of their final surge, the Providence girls took the team title, with Marvin Ridge narrowly edging Ravenscroft for third place.
Wyatt Maxey (Providence) went straight to the front of the race, and stayed there the whole way, pacing himself to a sub-16 finish. Anthony Hughes (Ledford) also went out strong, along with Corey Garagiola (Independence).
Although Maxey was unchallenged, there was some interesting racing in the rest of the top 10 over the second half of the race. Matt Burns (Weddington) climbed all the way to second, leaving Hughes in third. Burns' teammate Tanner Glackin finished 4th, keying Weddington to the team title.
A four-girl pack developed quickly in this race, featuring Julia Zwierzynski (Green Hope), Marissa Lundsten (Community School of Davidson), Amanda Wiggenhorn (Cardinal Gibbons), and Sydney Winchel (Leesville Road). They were being chased by a large group of runners, including Vicki Kohlway (Lake Norman Charter) and a passel of both Providence and Green Hope runners.
Zwierzynski pulled away for the win, running a fine time of 19:30.50 (almost 30 seconds ahead of the next finisher). Wiggenhorn moved up to take second place, while Kohlway ended up in third. Green Hope's large pack of youngsters moved up steadily through the race, leading to a dominating team win over Providence (two of the largest programs in the state).
Conor Honeycutt (East Rowan) took the early lead in this race, but he was quickly swallowed up by a large group of Weddington runners. They were followed by a pack of RJ Reynolds boys at the front of a continuous flood of runners, creating quite a bit of traffic to navigate through.
Honeycutt pulled away steadily to win in 16:30, while Nathan Kemper (Lake Norman Charter) was able to fight through the crowds to get into second place. Nick Ciaccia (RJ Reynolds) finished third, keying a run of 3 Demons in the top 11, but the depth of Weddington was too much, as the Warriors won the team title over Providence.