Boys Individual Battle:
George Hotelling (East Chapel Hill) captured his first state championship Saturday after battling Ben Verchick (Union Pines) for the second straight week. Hotelling out-kicked Verchick at their regional last weekend and did so again Saturday. Hotelling and Verchick were joined at the front for the majority of the race by Jacob Gallant (Mount Tabor), Michael Zapherson (TC Roberson), and Nate Jaster (Weddington).
From the gun, those five made their way up to the initially giant lead pack. With no easy way to separate from the rest of the field, the first mile had to be quick- and it was. The leaders crossed the first mile split in roughly 4:56.
From there the pack started to thin out as around fifteen boys gapped themselves from the field. Within that Pack was Weddington's front five of Nate Jaster, Will Mazur, Kyle Durham, Jackson O'Hara, and Stephen Larson.
Over the long straightaway before the two mile that lead pack started to string out. With Verchick at the lead, they crossed the two mile in 10:10, the fastest two mile split of the day. Verchick looked like he tried to make a move but was matched by Hotelling, Gallant, Zapherson, and Jaster.
Those five surged over the next half mile and made it clear who the top five would be. As they went up the hill the final time Hotelling used his well known finishing speed to make the final move. Verchick and Gallant tried to hang on but Hotelling cruised down the home stretch and won the state championship in 15:46! Ben Verchick took home 2nd in 15:52, Jacob Gallant was 3rd in 15:53, Michael Zapherson was 4th in 15:53 and freshman Nate Jasper was 5th in 15:54.
Boys Team Battle:
The Warriors of Weddington came into the meet as heavy favorites and after a great day of racing they showed why. Freshman Nate Jaster, who finished 6th in his regional, had a breakout performance finishing 5th in the state! His teammates were not far behind by any means. Will Mazur and Kyle Durham barely missed All-State as they finished 11th and 12th respectively. Jackson O'Hara finished 15th and Stephen Larson rounded out their top five in 17th. Larson finished ahead of every team's #2 runner. Weddington finished with only 50 points! With all results from all classifications merged together Weddington, a 3A team, would still be victorious!
The battle for second was tight was there were three teams in contention but it was Chapel Hill who finished runner-up with 126 points. Sophomore Ben Hawley led Chapel Hill with an All-State performance finishing 10th. Owen Rogers finished 24th, Emil Arangala was 32nd, James Clabo was 34th and Zeno Scotti was 51st. All of Chapel Hill's top five are returning next season, so they will be looking to reclaim the state title.
Mount Tabor finished 3rd with 141 points backed by a phenomenal 3rd place run by Jacob Gallant! Gallant finished 4th in his regional last weekend. James Vlasis was Tabor's #2 and finished 22nd. T.C. Roberson finished 4th with 143 points. They were led by Michael Zapherson's 4th place performance, which was his second cross country All-State performance.
Girls Individual Battle:
The final race of the day did not disappoint; tons of lead changes throughout kept this one interesting. Alyssa Hernandez (Northern Guilford) and Jenna Reiter (West Carteret) sat 1-2 through the half mile with a bulk of the field right on their heels. As they approached the mile mark, a pack of seven started to separate themselves from the rest of the contenders. In that pack was Hernandez, Reiter, Jonna Strange (North Iredell), Frances Whitworth (Mount Tabor), Hayley Whoolery (West Johnson), and Madeline Hill and Leah Helms (Cuthbertson). They hit the mile in 5:40.
During the second mile Maggie McCormick (Harnett Central) creeped her way into the lead pack, and then took over the lead. She lead the way through the two mile mark in 11:45 and had given herself a few meter lead on the now-chase pack.
Madeline Hill lead the chase pack which now was down to four. Hill, with Leah Helms and Hayley Whoolery made the charge back into contention and caught up to McCormick with less than a half mile remaining. Madeline Hill made the final move and and dashed down the straightaway winning the state championship in a new personal best of 18:11! McCormick held on for 2nd in 18:17. Hill's teammate Leah Helms was 3rd in 18:19 and Hayley Johnson was 4th in 18:20.
Girls Team Battle:
Madeline Hill and Leah Helms led the charge for the Cavaliers of Cuthbertson leading them to a convincing state championship victory over Chapel Hill. Their 1st and 3rd place finishes were crucial to their victory. made Cuthbertson's 3-5 of Kaitlyn St. Hilaire, Gabriella Castro, and Delaney Patterson all finished in the top 25 to help secure the victory. Cuthbertson finished with 47 points.
As the girls teams were in the last mile the team battle looked to get epic between Cuthbertson, Chapel Hill, and Weddington. You couldn't make out which of these three teams were ahead. Cuthbertson's last mile was extremely impressive to give them a 21 point victory over the field. Most of those points came from their 3-5 was massive as the three girls put the team on their backs.
Freshman Amelia Maughan led Chapel Hill to a runner-up finish as they scored 68 points as a team. Chapel Hill's front four were all within seven runners of each other. Lilly Crook finished 13th, Maggie Springer was 15th, and Sydney Runkle was 17th.