Cuthbertson senior Gabriella Castro set a school record with a run of 18:01 at the NCHSAA 3A girls cross country championship, helping Cuthbertson claim its second straight title in a stacked field.
Cuthbertson, Weddington and Chapel Hill ranked first, second and fourth in the 12-state Southeast region, and the race lived up to the hype.
Coach Kirk Walsh said he banned his team from reading the state rankings, but he knew it was going to be tight.
“I was well aware of the national-caliber competition awaiting us at states and was privately a little more nervous than normal heading in,” he said.
Castro just missed North Iredell’s Jonna Strange (17:57) for the individual crown, but she earned all-state honors along with freshman Lillian Nasta, who placed 10th with a time of 18:40.
Freshmen Marissa Bosland (18:58, 19th) and Alyssa Preisano (19:02, 21st) sandwiched junior Leah Helms (19:00, 20th) in the final standings. Junior Madeline Hill (19:07) placed 26th overall after battling injuries all season. Walsh said her sticking it out became a symbol of strength for the team, but once that fifth runner crossed, the Cavs knew they had won it.
“With 1,000 meters to go in the race, Gabriella moved from eighth place, 15 seconds behind the leader, to a second-place finish only three seconds back from the win,” Walsh said. “When I saw that, I knew her low points would give us a huge advantage. Then when Lily crossed in the top 10, and Marissa, Leah and Alyssa crossed together in a pack, I knew we had five in before Chapel Hill or Weddington had four, and it was over. So, we were able to tell the girls as they crossed the line that they had just won, and each went quickly from exhaustion to elation, tears of pain turning to tears of joy.”
But Weddington gave the Cavs all they could handle.
Anna Ritter (18:37, ninth) was the first Warrior to cross the finish line, but Alyx Beausoleil (18:50, 17th), Emma Jones (18:56, 18th), Anna Davis (19:05, 24th) and freshman Paige Starkie (19:34, 30th) all scored.
Kathleen Abrams (19:39, 33rd) and freshman Audrey Wright (19:40, 34th) also ran well.
Marvin Ridge was led by Caroline Blanton (19:10, 27th) and got scoring runs from Riley Basinger (19:13, 28th), Kayla Basinger (19:16, 29th) and freshmen Lindsey Czanieck (19:54, 40th) and Dani Colling (19:58, 44th).
Mavs freshman Madalyn Finn (19:59, 45th) and sophomore Lindsey Blizzard (19:59, 46th) also turned in standout runs for the young Marvin Ridge team that has only freshmen and sophomores.
Charlotte Catholic freshman Jet Francis (19:55, 41st) also turned in a top-50 time.
Cuthbertson won their second straight state title with 67 points and was followed by Chapel Hill (84, second), Weddington (92, third) and Marvin Ridge (153, fourth).
“Once championships become the expectation, you really have to step back and reassess why you’re doing it,” Walsh said. “ If we allow ourselves to ‘chase rings’ as our driving purpose, we’ll collapse under our own weight.
“We do not talk about winning championships or other outcome goals. We focus on process goals, the things we’ll do and the sacrifices we’ll make for each other every day. We talk about our daily commitment to do hard things in service to the team, to lift each other up, to stay humble, to serve and not be served. At the end of the day, we’re just running, and trying to help each other become the best version of ourselves.”
Warriors, Cavs boys shine at 3A finals
Weddington placed second in the state while Cuthbertson was right on their heels to place third at the NCHSAA 3A championship Nov. 9 in Kernersville.
The Warriors were led by senior Jake Toomey, who placed second overall with a time of 15:51. Toomey and Watauga’s Avery Cannon (15:39) were the only two runners in the field of 195 runners to break the 16-minute mark.
Weddington also got scoring runs from Wesley Larson (16:17, 11th place), Sam Sanneman (16:29, 17th), freshman Caden Townshend (16:34, 24th) and Grayson Lucas (16:52, 43rd).
The Cuthbertson boys have now improved at the state meet each of the past four seasons by placing 10th in 2016, sixth in 2017, fifth last season and now third this year.
For the first time in program history, the Cavs had two top-10 runners, which qualifies them as all-state runners.
Mickey Schihl placed seventh (16:14) with teammate Gage Austin right on his heels (16:15) to place eighth overall.
Shaun Raughley (16:32, 22nd), Davis Seik (16:33, 23rd) and William Walsh (17:15, 64th) scored for the Cavs.
“Other than Mickey, who moved here his freshman year, these guys have all been running together since sixth grade. They’re close as kin and hang out at the house when they’re not running. Literally, they speak their own language and are quick to teach it to the next generation,” Cuthbertson coach Kirk Walsh said. “With Davis being our only varsity senior, I expect the returning squad will continue to make a mark outside the girls’ shadow next season.” Marvin Ridge got four runners in the top 50 with Cole Jackson (16:17, 12th), Gunner Hogston (16:23, 14th), Jackson Colling (16:39) and Aneesh Duggirala (16:55, 45th).
Weddington wound up second place with 77 points, which trailed state champion Chapel Hill by 16. Cuthbertson placed third with 99 and Marvin Ridge was fifth in the state with 43 points and Charlotte Catholic placed 15th with 436 points, but the Cougars didn’t have anyone finish within the top 50.