By GUY LORANGER : The Herald-Sun
Oct 5, 2006 : 12:10 am ET
The team that lives together and hangs together ran together at the Durham City-County Cross Country Championships.
Science & Math grabbed five of the top seven spots, including first-place Phillip Curley, and claimed the boys\' title for the first time in the 30-year-old event\'s history Monday at Durham Academy.
Taking home the Russell Blunt Trophy provided a bit of redemption for the Unicorns, who had settled for runner-up for the last two seasons, including by six points to Jordan a year ago.
\"We used that as a bit of motivation,\" Science & Math coach Richard McDonald said after his team topped Jordan by a 23-51 margin, \"and I said you\'ll never know when you\'ll get this chance again, so go for it. We had a good No. 1 runner, and a good pack behind him, and they ran together as a team.\"
Unlike the boys\' race, there was no new winner among the girls.
With individual champion Michelle Lutz leading the way, Jordan claimed the girls\' title for the eighth year in a row, holding off a strong challenge from School of the Arts to win by seven points, 31-38.
\"I\'ll give DSA a lot of credit, their kids ran well today,\" Falcons coach John Gray said. \"I\'m going to breathe a big sigh of relief.\"
Curley shaved 24 seconds off the time he posted at the DA Invitational a month ago on the same hilly, 5K course, clocking 16:32 to beat Northern\'s Zach Schoenfeld by 27 seconds.
On a warm Indian summer afternoon, the Wilkes County native rolled out to a huge lead and didn\'t look back until he crossed the finish line and started shouting for his teammates.
\"Today was all about the team,\" Curley said. \"We ran our guts out.\"
Right behind Curley was a block of Science & Math runners. Daniel Kimmel took fourth, while Cam Cook, Ryan Seawell and Robert Yarbrough finished within four seconds of each other in the 5-7 spots.
\"We were working off each other, and we really picked up our times,\" Cook said.
The Unicorns might arrive at Science & Math\'s campus from different parts of the state every August and start practicing roughly three weeks later than most teams, but they quickly form a team bond, Yarbrough said.
\"We\'re all roommates, and we hang out together all the time,\" he said. \"It helps a lot.\"
David Glenn came in third, and teammate Christopher Barron was eighth to lead runner-up Jordan. Northern came in third thanks to Schoenfeld\'s race and top-10 finishes from Marquez Harris and Brian Parham.
Early on, Schoenfeld said, he lost sight of Curley. So, he just focused on his own race and ended up with his best finish in four years at the City-County Meet.
\"I wanted to win, but it\'s good to know I\'m the second-fastest in Durham,\" Schoenfield said.
In the girls\' race, Lutz extended a Jordan dynasty by giving the Falcons their ninth straight individual title.
Although the junior didn\'t match her winning time from the DA Invitational, clocking a flat 20:00, she still cruised in with a full 47-second lead over runner-up Erin O\'Connor of Durham Academy.
\"I tried to work harder on the hills, and I used the downhills more to my advantage,\" Lutz said, \"but I think I was feeling a little tired today.\"
Teammates Elizabeth Tapp, Heather Mills and Amy Mills joined Lutz in the top 10. However, DSA placed four in the top 10 as well: Ericka Charles, who came in third, along with Sarah Marion, Paige Andrew and Margaret O\'Brian, who took the 7-9 spots.
The Falcons weren\'t sure if they would take home the John Gray Trophy again until their fifth-place runner, Austin Tharrington, came in just ahead of DSA\'s Elizabeth Hurley.
\"When your coach\'s name is on the trophy, there\'s a lot of pressure to win it,\" Lutz said. \"It was a nice feeling.\"
Second place marked the highest finish yet for DSA, which competed in the City-County Meet for the first time in 2001. Last season, the Bulldogs were third.
\"We\'ve been improving for the last two years, and now, our girls are picking it up,\" said Charles, a senior. \"This will boost our confidence for the rest of the year.\"
Thanks to the strong finish by O\'Connor, who is an eighth grader, DA made the biggest leap of any team from last year\'s meet. After finishing last a year ago, the Cavaliers took third place.
Although it didn\'t repeat last year\'s sweep, Jordan did hang on to the Dennis Cullen Award, which goes to the school with the lowest combined boys\' and girls\' team scores.