This race got out extremely fast, with all of the contenders within sight of the lead as they exited the starting loop. At the mile mark, however, Lucas Brown (Queens Grant) mad an aggressive move and had more than ten seconds over a pack that included Jake Baugher (Community School of Davidson), Drew Zink (Lincoln Charter), Aaron Rovnak (Franklin Academy), Caleb Potter (Polk County) and Brent Surratt (South Davidson).
Zink and Potter had their eyes on Brown however. Over the course of the second mile, they gnawed away at the lead. By the time they got out of the woods, the three runners were shoulder to shoulder rolling into the final loop.
Coming down the homestretch, the most exciting finish in recent state meet history began to unfold. Zink, considered to be one of the favorites to win it, was in a dead lock with Potter, who had never strayed from the top five during the race. The two runners went back and forth, with neither able to get more than a few inches before the other pulled even.
Neither made any separation as they hurtled towards the finish line shoulder to shoulder. At the line, the officials made no call as it was impossible to determine a winner by eye. After a suspenseful few minutes, Potter got the word that he had just edged Zink to pick up the state title by seven hundredths of a second. Behind them, Rovnak was able to catch Brown in the homestretch to round out the top three, while Brown just held off Surratt, who finished fifth. Timers were able to verify Potter's win through a camera determining he was across the line first.
Whatever disappointment Zink felt after being edged out at the line couldn't have lasted long. With Potter being an individual competitor, Zink still secured the single point, and it was quickly evident that Lincoln Charter had locked down the team win with all five boys in the top 15.
The second spot was much more tightly contested. Rovnak gave Franklin Academy an important two points, and Jeddy Waldon finished eighth to give them two in the top 10. But Bishop McGuinness managed to get three guys in between Franklin Academy's two and three, and had a four and five that both edged out Franklin Academy's five. With thirty runners in, both schools had all five across the line and were tied at 85.
Franklin Academy's sixth man finished in the 39th spot, securing the tiebreaker and earning them second place. Bishop finished third with a comfortable buffer over the rest of the field.
Coming out of the first loop, freshman Lauren Tolbert (Highland Tech) was running confidently at the front of the pack. A step behind her was Abigail Hemric (North Stokes) and Caitlyn Burkett (Franklin Academy).
Those three looked strong at the mile, as Hemric began to pull away a bit and the field strung out. By the two mile, Hemric had thrown down the hammer and built a massive lead. Tolbert led the chase pack and was joined by Amy Rosie Scott-Benson (Voyager), with Victoria Swepson (Research Triangle) not far behind after surging over the second mile. Burkett trailed behind.
While Hemric didn't give up ground en route to a big 16-second victory, the three behind her all kicked it in to gear behind her. Scott-Benson was able to kick in for second, while Tolbert was able to put space on the rest of the field to pick up a top three finish as only a freshman. Burkett was able to make up ground and find an extra gear as she motored home in fourth place, with Swepson not far behind to round out the top five.
After taking out individual qualifiers, Franklin Academy was able to put three of their runners in the top six, led by Burkett. Through three runners each, Research Triangle also looked impressive with three single digit scorers, while Voyager Academy picked up the single point from Benson-Scott who was joined by teammate Ashley Rogers in the top 15. Voyager was able to bring home all five within the top 25, but Franklin Academy's overall strength was too much to overcome as they placed five in the top 20.
Research Triangle fell to third, but was able to hold off Thomas Jefferson Classical, who in turn held of Highland Tech by three points.
Franklin Academy girls battled a ton of injury this year and were still able to pull of their third straight NCHSAA 1A team title. Defending individual champion Caitlyn Burkett has hardly run this year and was able to pull off a 4th place finish for her team. Another athlete on the team was in a walking boot before and after the race. Despite being injured she wanted to do this for her team.