The Jungle Run course, traditionally one of the fastest each season, proved to be a PR-fest again this year! \"It is a great confidence booster for the kids to come out and run fast. They get to see what their summer training has done for them,\" a parent told me.
As the the sun went down, the Pinecrest boys and girls turned up the heat. Both teams won the Championship races in solid fashion. The girls ran from behind, as Durham Jordan looked to be in the lead at the 2 mile mark. Pinecrest\'s #2, 3, & 4 runners made big moves in the final mile to secure a win for the ladies. Both Pinecrest and Jordan\'s girls could be dangerous come the 4A state meet if they can find a 5th runner. The boy\'s race never looked in doubt, as Andy Wacker led the way for a strong Pinecrest team. New faces, but same outcome!
Wacker, a 4A state favorite this season, looked very smooth throughout the entire race while setting a new course record. Wacker ran the course in 15:24.5, breaking the old course record by around 7 seconds. He looks poised and ready to deliver something special this season.
In the girl\'s race, Michelle Lutz of Durham Jordan, ran an incredible 18:46.5 despite going the wrong way. I asked Michelle about the wrong turn and she said, \"I was worried about making a wrong turn before the race because the course has a lot of different loops in the beginning that are kind of confusing. If that Gator hadn\'t been there I definitely would have made a lot more wrong turns. I don\'t even know what I was thinking when I went through the gate instead of turning. The gate wasn\'t even all the way open. I really admire Rachel Park for telling me right away that I was going the wrong way. She could have just let me keep going, I might not have noticed for awhile. She\'s a really nice person. She even said \"good job\" to me during the race. I have a lot of respect for her.\" Rachel Park, of Cary Academy, took the lead briefly after Michelle\'s mishap. However, it wasn\'t long until Michelle got back up to the front and took over the race for good.
\"It felt good when it was over,\" she said. \"I did enjoy running in the dark.\" Michelle didn\'t qualify for states last year and this year looks to be a top 5 contender. \"I trained a lot over the summer. Last summer most of our runs were long slow distance, this summer our coaches, Coach Mulligan and Coach Grey, had us do some shorter and faster runs. We would also sometimes go to a low key track meet held by a local track club and run all three heats of the mile or some other distance for a change of pace.\"
Michelle is coming off an outstanding track season where she improved from a 20:43 5k PR to times of 5:12 and 11:33 during outdoors. She contributes much of her success to a fellow teammate. \"During track season I think Priya Khatri, who graduated last year and runs at Duke now, helped my running improve a lot. Without her to run with I wouldn\'t have been able to finish some of the harder workouts that Coach Grey gave us.\"
Michelle has obviously started the XC season out on a high note. She has season ending goals like most athletes as well. \"Last year I was really disappointed that I didn\'t make it to states either individually or as a team. This year I hope we make it as a team. Individually I would like to be at least in the top three in the region and the state.\"
More to come once official results are in.