Laney girls, Hoggard boys roll to New Hanover County Cross-Country Championship (photos/videos)

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WILMINGTON — Championship season got underway for high school cross-country teams on Thursday afternoon at Olsen Park.

Sophomore Natalie Tyner and a strong corps of runners led by five seniors guided the Laney girls to back-to-back New Hanover County titles. Jamie Witmer and Erik Dahlgren pushed each other for a one, two finish to pace the Hoggard boys.

Tyner, one of only two girls in North Carolina to break the 18 minute mark this season, cruised from the opening gun. With temperatures warming up for the first time this week, the field battled through sloppy conditions as the sophomore standout finished the 3.1 mile meet, 18:40.72.

Teammate Cameron Smithwick (20:00.09) placed second in just over 20 minutes, while Ryleigh McIntyre (20:27.34) of Ashley High School took third. Laney’s Erin Coon (20:35.63) took fourth and Cape Fear Academy’s Summer Beesley hit a personal best, 20:37.42, to round out the top-five.

Laney girls’ cross-country is listed at No. 9 in the state as the favorites to win next week’s Mideastern Conference Championship. Cameron Smithwick is listed inside the Top-25, while Haley Smithwick looks to bounce back with a personal best of 19:54.01 this fall.

In the boys’ race, Witmer is working his way back from a shin injury and looks to be getting into form just in time for what he hopes to be a big finish over the next few weeks. His time of 16:36.93 was less than one second ahead of teammate Erik Dahlgren, while James Hardy (17:41.48) took fifth to put three Hoggard runners among the top five fastest times.

The Vikings are among the top 25 teams in the state at No. 23, according to NC Milesplit. Witmer lead the way with a season best 15:53.96 earlier this year, which puts the senior among the top 20 runners in North Carolina.

Aidan Flynn (17:35.95) and Patrick Shields (17:38.97) gave New Hanover and Laney representation in the top five, respectively, during Thursday’s county meet.

Girls Top 5
No. 1 Natalie Tyner, Laney, 18:40.72
No. 2 Cameron Smithwick, Laney, 20:00.09
No. 3 Ryleigh McIntyre, Ashley, 20:27.34
No. 4 Erin Coon, Laney, 20:35.63
No. 5 Summer Beesley, Cape Fear Academy, 20:37.42

Team scores: No. 1 Laney, 35; No. 2 Hoggard, 62; New Hanover, 70; Ashley, 89; Cape Fear Academy, 101; Coastal Christian, 140

Boys Top 5
No. 1 Jamie Witmer, Hoggard, 16:36.93
No. 2 Erik Dahlgren, Hoggard, 16:37.71
No. 3 Aidan Flynn, New Hanover, 17:35.95
No. 4 Patrick Shields, Laney, 17:38.97
No. 5 James Hardy, Hoggard, 17:41.48

Team scores: No. 1 Hoggard, 29; No. 2 Laney, 77; No. 2 New Hanover, 63; No. 3 Laney, 77; No. 4 Coastal Christian, 119; Ashley, 124; Cape Fear Academy, 151