Chapel Hill strong at Invitational

DURHAM -- Chapel Hill cross country coach Ron Olsen had to make two bus trips in the 80-degree heat Saturday morning to get all of his runners to the Durham Academy Invitational.

As usual, the Tigers swarmed the competition with their numbers.

Capturing five of the top 10 boys\' spots and eight of the top 10 in the girls\' race, Chapel Hill pulled off an impressive sweep of the eight-team event.

\"We haven\'t raced in two weeks, so we\'re a little rusty, but it was fine,\" Olsen said. \"I love this meet. It\'s nice, low key. It\'s a good meet for us.\"

The Tigers are coming off a season in which they swept the state 4-A championships. At the outset of the season, both their boys\' and girls\' teams are ranked No. 1 in the N.C. Cross Country Coaches polls -- a ranking that was reinforced by another sweep at the WNC Cross Country Festival on Aug. 26.

Sophomore Taylor Gilland led Chapel Hill\'s boys\' contingent by winning in a time of 16 minutes, 22 seconds. Miles Rampel (second), Jack Marshall (fifth), Peter Anderson (seventh) and Kent Pecora (ninth) followed him in the top 10.

With last season\'s celebrated trio of Jack Bolas, Ryan Workman and Duncan Hoge now running in college, the Tigers will have a new identity this season, Gilland said.

\"We have a lot closer pack, and we like staying together,\" said Gilland, who took second at the WNC Cross Country Festival. \"We don\'t have as many frontrunners, but we\'re solid in our top six, and we\'re deep through our top 20 runners.\"

Although the black-clad Tigers dominated the girls\' race, Jordan\'s Michelle Lutz kept her red jersey in front of the pack from start to finish.

After staying close to Chapel Hill\'s Becky Johnson through most of the race, Lutz turned it on in the last 400 meters and pulled away for the victory in a time of 19:47. Johnson came in 17 seconds later.

\"I wanted to get out front and stay in front of Becky,\" Lutz said. \"She\'s really good, because she stays with you and never gives up.

\"Coming down the [last] hill, I didn\'t have much of a lead, so it was still kind of scary.\"

While Johnson finished seventh at last year\'s state 4-A final, Lutz failed to qualify for the meet. She had a miserable regional thanks to a 102-degree fever.

Saturday\'s performance was more indicative of her ability, Coach John Gray said.

\"I\'m ecstatic about how she ran today,\" Gray said. \"She showed her strength by getting out front and maintaining it, and it wasn\'t easy, either. Becky\'s a great runner.\"

Chapel Hill finished with 24 points in the boys\' race, while Science & Math was second with 72 and Jordan a close third with 73.

Science & Math\'s Philip Curley followed Chapel Hill\'s Gilland and Rampel in third place, while his teammate, Daniel Kimmel took 10th.

Northern\'s Zach Schoenfeld (fourth), Jordan\'s David Glenn (sixth) and Cedar Ridge\'s Jeremy Gerlach rounded out the top 10.

In the girls\' race, Chapel Hill had 21 points. Jordan took second with 56, and Durham Academy came in third with 98.

Johnson, Kristina Witcher, Beth Wollman and Adrienne Wollman gave the Tigers four of the top five spots, while Emily Hamilton, Madison Stark, Anna Adams and Lindsay Clendaniel grabbed spots 7-10.

Breaking up the pack was Cedar Ridge\'s Lauren Kennedy with her sixth-place finish.