Heading down the stretch of the fall sports season, seven cross-country teams converged under pristine running conditions at Hugh McRae Park for the New Hanover County Championships on Thursday.
Following a strong performance at last year’s meet, Hoggard senior Robinson Snider captured first place in the boys race to help guide the Vikings to a team title. Freshman Natalie Tyner pulled away from the pack in the final leg of the girls competition to take individual honors as Laney grabbed a one-point win over New Hanover to claim top spot in the 3.1 mile trek.
“I’m feeling good after today and look forward to conference and regionals coming up over the next few weeks,” said Snider, who crossed the finish line in 16:25.6. “This is where it starts to count in the championship races and while we’re still training; everyone is running as hard as they can right now and it’s painful.”
Xavier McKinley and Henry Kunsz were side by side until the end to grab second and third place, respectively, to help give the Wildcats a runners up performance. Coming in at 16:44.4, Jamie Witmer took fourth, while Alex Naduad (Cape Fear Academy) closed the top five at 17:06.2.
Cody Benton and Dakota Spurley represented Ashley among the 10 fastest finishers, but Sydney Wiegman (ninth), Eric Dahlgren (14th) and Christian Talbert (15th) gave Hoggard a good enough score to clinch the team title.
“After losing some big contributors and leaders from last season, I kind of thought this might have been a bit of rebuilding year,” Snider added. “But, with the work we’ve put in over the last few months, we have one of the better teams we’ve ever had and that’s exciting.”
The top five runners for the Vikings had an average time of 17:08.29, four seconds better than second-place New Hanover.
As for the girls race, the Bucs and Wildcats secured eight of the top 10 spots as Tyner finished a strong performance after coming in at 19:34.6, some 30 seconds ahead of last year’s county champion Sara Pelizzari (Hoggard).
“I’ve just been training harder of the last couple of weeks and wanted to give it all I had today,” said Tyner. “I feel great and really proud of myself and all the hard work I put in.”
Katherine Flynn (New Hanover) took third at 20:21.0, while Laney’s Haley Smithwick and Cameron Smithwick closed the best five.
“I’m real proud of my team right now and hope to bring home a conference championship next week,” Tyner said. “We try hard, stick together and push each other to our limits. We’ve come in second in some invitationals this season and we’ve just working our way up there.”
Heading into next week’s Mideastern Conference Championship meet, which will be held back at Hugh McRae Park on October 22, the two overall winners believe Thursday’s race was just a precursor for what they hope will be an exciting finish to the year.
“We still have to focus on stretching, working on injury prevention,” Snider said. “We’ll start doing less and less aerobic workouts and start focusing on getting more speed by running at a faster pace.”
“Mainly just pushing ourselves to the limit,” said Tyner. “I really don’t have a plan at this point and trust the training we’ve gone through to help push us to where we need to go.”
In addition to the varsity and junior varsity races, middle schoolers and elementary students were also invited to run in a two-mile and one-mile run after the awards ceremony came to a conclusion. Owen Thorndike, 7, took home first place in the two-mile race at 12:23.7, while Makayla Obremski, 7, was the top girl finisher at 13:24.3.
A total of 357 runners crossed the finish line between the six different races.
“Today was a great collaboration and a victory for cross country in our county,” Hackman added.
Team standings (boys)
Place, schools, points, average
No. 1 Hoggard, 43, 17:08.29
No. 2 New Hanover, 48, 17:12:59
No. 3 Laney, 65, 17:30:95
No. 4 Ashley, 98, 18:20.45
No. 5 Cape Fear Acdaemy, 137, 19:20.41
No. 6 Coastal Christian, 145, 19:14.91
No.1 Robinson Snider, Hoggard, 16:25.6
No. 2 Xavier McKinley, New Hanover, 16:37.2
No. 3 Henry Kunsz, New Hanover, 16:38.7
No. 4 Jamie Witmer, Hoggard, 16:44.4
No. 5 Alex Nadaud, Cape Fear Academy, 17:06.2
Team standings (girls)
No. 1 Laney, 36, 20:42.86
No. 2 New Hanover, 37, 20:53.25
No. 3 Hoggard, 57, 21:11.99
No. 4 Ashley, 121, 22:37.61
No. 5 Cape Fear Academy, 129, 22:57.90
No. 1 Natalie Tyner, Laney, 19:34.6
No. 2 Sara Pellizzari, Hoggard, 20:04.8
No. 3 Katherine Flynn, New Hanover, 20:21.0
No. 4 Haley Smithwick, Laney, 20:28.4
No. 5 Camreon Smithwick, Laney, 20:39.2