Eight individual state champions were crowned Saturday at Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville, N.C., including one freshman, two sophomores, two juniors, and three seniors, as the N.C. High School Athletic Association completed its state cross country meet.
There were some close races (one decided by less than a second) and some blowouts (one decided by more than 16 seconds) on the cool, sunny day in central North Carolina.
Eight different teams (Cary, Cardinal Gibbons, Cuthbertson, Weddington, North Lincoln, Carrboro, Lincoln Charter, and Franklin Academy) claimed titles as well, as no school swept the boys and girls races.
Anton Idhammer of Cary High (Cary, N.C.) was content to let other runners set the pace, but with 400 meters to go, the senior made his move, sprinting to the 4A state title. He ran past Nick Scudder of Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.) to win in 15 minutes, 45.12 seconds.
“The final kick thing,” Idhammer said, “that’s my thing.”
Scudder finished second in 15:49.59, with Carson Williams of Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.) third in 15:51.03.
Brian Piccone of Cary finished fourth to back up Idhammer and help the Imps to the state title. Reed Blackman of Green Hope (Cary, N.C.) was fifth, with teammate Thomas Vo sixth. Also earning all-state honors were: 7. Lowell Hensgen, Cardinal Gibbons; 8. Ian Harrison, Panther Creek (Cary, N.C.); 9. Wesley Haws, Cardinal Gibbons; 10. Jackson Martin, Cary.
Cary edged out Triangle-area foes Green Hope and Cardinal Gibbons for the team championship. Cary scored 70 points, with Green Hope (76) second and Gibbons (85) third. Broughton (Raleigh, N.C.) was fourth and Panther Creek fifth.
The remaining team finishers were: 6. Leesville Road (Raleigh, N.C.); 7. Millbrook; 8. West Forsyth (Clemmons, N.C.); 9. Mooresville (Mooresville, N.C.); 10. R.J. Reynolds (Winston-Salem, N.C.); 11. Providence (Charlotte, N.C.); 12. Pinecrest (Southern Pines, N.C.); 13. Ardrey Kell (Charlotte, N.C.); 14. Ronald Reagan (Pfafftown, N.C.); 15. Myers Park (Charlotte, N.C.); 16. Page (Greensboro, N.C.); 17. Wake Forest (Wake Forest, N.C.); 18. Hoggard (Wilmington, N.C.).
Anton Idhammer, Cary: “I’m obviously really happy about the win. It’s been a tough season. So this was just really, really fun, a super, fun race. I can be happy about what happened, personally. … The plan was to hang on until 400 meters left and then hope I have some left in the tank to finish it off, and it worked out. It wasn’t super fast from the start, but I stayed relaxed throughout the whole race. Scudder and the Green Hope and the Panther Creek boys kinda took the lead so was happy to kind of just sit in behind them, and then it just worked out really well in the end there.”
Nick Scudder, Millbrook: “I thought I made a pretty good move, probably 400 to go, but that one behind me (Idhammer) had to be an 800 runner and he got me at the end. I felt like I worked really hard for that second but I mean, I wish it could’ve been first, but I’m happy with it.”
Carson Williams, Cardinal Gibbons: “Coming in, I wanted to win, but obviously I’m proud of the way I finished and the way our team fought. I was just trying to stay as relaxed as I could through the backstretch in the first two miles and then just see what I had at the end, see if I could win at the end. … I’m a little, little disappointed I didn’t win, but obviously.”
Carmen Alder of Pinecrest tore through the course with a time of 17:50.64 seconds to win by nearly 12 seconds over runner-up Natalie Tyner of Laney High (Wilmington, N.C.).
Alder’s time was the third-fastest on the current configuration here.
“I think it’s really exciting,” Alder said. “Hopefully I can do better. I was really just kind of like, ‘We run here, we’ve trained here. I can do this.’ We’ve run regionals here and a meet before, so I’m very familiar with this course.”
Tyner, the defending state champ, missed a lot of practice time and meets this season because of Hurricane Florence. Then, the senior was diagnosed with an iron deficiency and needed to recover.
“I didn’t even know if I’d be in that top 10 a couple months ago, so second is definitely a good spot to be in,” Tyner said. “Although I’d love for a double-win, but I’ll take it.”
Katharine Priu of Cardinal Gibbons was third, with Cora Cook of Myers Park fourth and Shannon Sefton of Panther Creek fifth.
The rest of the top 10 earning all-state honors were: 6. Caroline Todd, Cardinal Gibbons; 7. Caroline Mullahy, Cardinal Gibbons; 8. Paxton Chitty, Ashley (Wilmington, N.C.); 9. Lilly Walters, Hough (Cornelius, N.C.); 10. Bailey Reutinger, West Forsyth.
Cardinal Gibbons earned its ninth consecutive team title, across different classifications, by placing five runners in the top 20. West Forsyth was second with 81 points and Myers Park third with 104.
The rest of the team finishers were 4. Hough; 5. Panther Creek; 6. Reagan; 7. Broughton; 8. Leesville Road; 9. Green Hope; 10. Pinecrest; 11. Wake Forest; 12. Hoggard; 13. Ardrey Kell; 14. Hickory Ridge (Harrisburg, N.C.), 15. Providence.
Carmen Alder, Pinecrest: “I’m just really happy, and I was able to kind of make up for last year. I was in the front group and then we got to the two-mile mark and there was a push and these girls took off, and I couldn’t match their pace and I kind of fell behind last mile. … I said, ‘I’ve got to nail that last mile.’ I think I did good. I can improve, but I think I did better than last year.”
Natalie Tyner, Laney: “My plan coming in was just kind of to give it everything I have. It’s my last time in my Laney jersey. It’s really only my third race of the season, so I just wanted to give it everything I’ve got and go for whatever. … The hurricane [took practice time away] and then right after we got over the hurricane stuff, I found out I had really severe iron deficiency, so I had to take off a little bit to get that back up. I’ve just been trying to rebuild my strength and come out here and race the best I can.”
Katharine Priu, Cardinal Gibbons: “I was just trying to stick with that top three and score a few points if I could for my team. So that was kind of our plan. I’m really happy with the way I ran. It was a really exciting race, so it was fun. I’m really excited. I think that’s really cool being (third) in the state meet. Very good way to go out.”
Senior George Hotelling of East Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, N.C.) was able to break from a tight pack in the latter stages, pass two runners, and win the 3A title.
“This is so exciting,” Hotelling said. “This is beyond belief. At the start of the season, I wasn’t even sure this was going to be a possibility, but as it got closer I was like, ‘Oh, I might be able to do this. Take it out, let’s go.'”
He trailed Ben Verchick of Union Pines (Carthage, N.C.) and another competitor when Verchick made a move to the front. But Hotelling had a little more.
“My decision was based off me knowing my kick is usually a little shorter, like 800, 400,” Hotelling said. “And also just watching the field, seeing what was happening, what was going on. I saw Ben Verchick starting to start his kick, so I knew that if I could get up with him and break him around the turns that I could get out for the last 100 stretch. … When Ben started his kick, I was behind his teammate, so I was in third, but I quickly passed [his teammate], going right behind [Verchick] and then passing him.”
Hotelling won in 15:46.92, with Vechick second in 15:52.01. Jacob Gallant of Mount Tabor (Winston-Salem, N.C.) was a surprise to some in third with a time of 15.53.
Making the all-state team were: 4. Michael Zapherson, T.C. Roberson (Asheville, N.C.); 5. Nate Jaster, Weddington (Weddington, N.C.); 6. Jack Trabucco, Cox Mill (Concord, N.C.); 7. John Ciprich, Piedmont (Unionville, N.C.); 8. Jack Dingman, Northern Guilford (Summerfield, N.C.); 9. Jordan Richardson, Northern Nash (Red Oak, N.C.); 10. Ben Hawley, Chapel Hill.
Jaster led Weddington, which placed five runners in the top 14 to win the team title. Weddington, with 50 points, easily beat Chapel Hill (126) and Mount Tabor (141).
The remaining teams were: 4. T.C. Roberson; 5. Cuthbertson (Wesley Chapel, N.C.); 6. Marvin Ridge (Marvin, N.C.); 7. A.C. Reynolds (Asheville, N.C.); 8. D.H. Conley (Greenville, N.C.); 9. Watauga (Boone. N.C.); 10. East Chapel Hill; 11. Southwest Guilford (High Point, N.C.); 12. Asheville; 13. Northern Nash; 14. Cox Mill; 15. Enka (Candler, N.C.); 16. West Carteret (Morehead City, N.C.); 17. West Johnston (McGee’s Crossroads, N.C.); 18. Northwood (Pittsboro, N.C.); 19. Harnett Central (Angier, N.C.); 20. Union Pines; 21. New Hanover (Wilmington, N.C.); 22. Cedar Ridge (Hillsborough, N.C.); 23. South Brunswick (Boiling Springs Lakes, N.C.); 24. Clayton (Clayton, N.C.).
George Hotelling, East Chapel Hill: “Honestly, I prefer having a close pack, having a lot of competition. I really thrive off having big competition for big times.”
Ben Verchick, Union Pines: “It definitely was an amazing race. The guys did extremely well. We had a great pack through almost the whole thing. So yeah, it was a very good race. It turned into a real good kicker’s race, and George had a great kick to finish it out.”
So you’re happy with second?
“Yes and no. Yes and no.”
Jacob Gallant, Mount Tabor: “It was hard. We had a lot of guys fighting for those top 10 spots, but I knew I had to come out here and be determined and focused and I was just going for top five, so I’m happy with today. … I enjoy [running in a pack]. It gives me motivation. Just knowing all these guys around me are working towards something, and it makes me work even harder. … [Finishing third] means a lot because they had seen it outside of [the top 10] for this race and I just knew that I had to come out here and prove my worth, so I’m definitely proud of third.”
Cuthbertson High teammates Madeline Hill and Leah Helms pushed each other all season, so it was no surprise the sophomores pushed each other in the state championship meet to a first- and third-place finish. Hill was able to get to the finish line first, in 18:11.52, with Helms in third at 18:19.22.
“It’s amazing to have all my hard work pay off,” Hill said. “I’m just so happy, so proud of our team. I’m so proud of Leah. She helped me throughout the season. We paced each other. I think we really help each other in races.”
That was the plan coming into the state meet, too.
“Me and Madeline were going to work together the whole race and then at the end just do what we can and try to work together to beat the pack,” Helms said. “It worked out really well because we were with a big pack. But once I saw her pass someone I would go with her. So it’s really awesome to work together.”
Maggie McCormick of Harnett Central kept the Cuthbertson runners from sweeping the top two spots. She finished in 18:17.42, but a pre-race meal might’ve kept McCormick from winning.
“It’s not exactly what I wanted, but there are some circumstances that came about before the race that I think affected me,” McCormick said. “I just ate too close [to the start]. Cooling down, I just felt like I was gonna throw up. I did not feel good.”
A senior didn’t finish in the top 12, as one freshman, three sophomores and six juniors earned all-state honors. The remaining all-state runners were: 4. Hayley Whollery, West Johnston; 5. Jonna Strange, North Iredell (Olin, N.C.); 6. Sophia Ritter, Watauga; 7. Alyssa Hernandez, Northern Guilford; 8. Jenna Reiter, West Carteret; 9. Frances Whitworth, Mount Tabor; 10. Amelia Maughan, Chapel Hill.
Hill and Helms led Cuthbertson to the team victory over Chapel Hill despite the Tigers having four runners in the top 13. Weddington was third, with Northern Guilford fourth and Watauga fifth.
The rest of the team finishers were: 6. Mount Tabor; 7. West Carteret; 8. East Chapel Hill; 9. T.C. Roberson; 10. Cedar Ridge; 11. Northwood; 12. D.H. Conley; 13. Cox Mill; 14. Jacksonville (Jacksonville, N.C.); 15. Enka; 16. Charlotte Catholic; 17. Asheville;18. Topsail (Hampstead, N.C.); 19. New Hanover; 20. Clayton.
Madeline Hill, Cuthbertson: “I didn’t have much of a plan. I was going to try for first, but I was pretty far behind and then at the last 800 I just decided to go as fast as I could go.”
Maggie McCormick, Harnett Central: “Yeah, it’s just a little hard because I did have a time in my mind. I wanted to run a bit further under what I got at regionals. This is definitely going to give me a little bit of fire. I’m a little disappointed, but I think a failure just brings growth.”
Leah Helms, Cuthbertson: “It was really cool, especially being my first time at state meet for cross country. [Finishing third is] really awesome, and I think the rest of the girls did really awesome, too.”
Zach Hughes of First Flight (Kill Devil Hills, N.C.) needed a late move to overcome Jason Thomson of North Lincoln (Denver. N.C.) to claim the 2A boys title. The two battled with Thomson’s teammate Brian Risse until the latter stages when Hughes kicked his way to victory in the first race of the day.
Hughes won with a time of 16:00.79, beating Thomson (16:01.27) by less than a second. Risse was third in 16:08.37.
“I’m so excited,” Hughes said. “I can’t believe it. It was awesome.”
The duo could battle for the 2019 state title, as Hughes and Thomson are both juniors.
“Oh, yeah,” Thomson said. “Zach’s the same grade as me, so it’d be a good rematch next year. I’ll have a little bit more of a strategy probably going into it. Try to change it up a little bit.”
The rest of the top 10 who made all-state were: 4. Ben Armentout, Atkins (Winston-Salem, N.C.); 5. Johnny Grant, North Lincoln; 6. Erick Ramirez-Ramos, Surry Central (Dobson, N.C.); 7. Ethan Frey, North Carolina School of Science & Math (Durham, N.C.); 8. Daniel Hopkins, Lincolnton (Lincolnton, N.C.); 9. Christopher Upton, R-S Central (Rutherfordton, N.C.); 10. Trevor Pharr, NCSSM.
Thomson’s and Risse’s performances helped power the Knights to the team title. North Lincoln scored 36, beating runner-up First Flight with 74 points and North Carolina School of Science & Math with 130.
The rest of the team finishers were: 4. Lake Norman Charter (Huntersville, N.C.); 5. Brevard (Brevard, N.C.); 6. Croatan (Newport, N.C.); 7. Atkins; 8. Ledford (Wallburg, N.C.); 9. Oak Grove (Midway, N.C.); 10. Franklin (Franklin, N.C.); 11. Carrboro (Carrboro, N.C.); 12. Central Davidson (Lexington, N.C.); 13. Durham School of the Arts; 14. West Stokes (King, N.C.); 15. Pisgah (Canton, N.C.); 16. Ashe County (West Jefferson, N.C.); 17. Owen (Black Mountain, N.C.); 18. Draughn (Valdese, N.C.); 19. Southwest Onslow (Jacksonville, N.C.); 20. South Lenoir (Deep Run, N.C.).
Zach Hughes, First Flight: “I knew it was going to be a battle there between me and Thomson, so at the two-and-a-half [mark], he made his move and I was kind of caught behind a couple people so I had to get out and to make my way. I was a little worried at first because he was pulling away, but then we got to 500 to go, I just dug deep and came out with it. … It means so much to me. I had been working hard all year, and I know I’m very proud of myself. I’m very proud of our team. Lot of respect for North Lincoln and the other guys in that race. Everybody ran great.”
Jason Thomson, North Lincoln: “Well, I knew before going into the race, I kind of wanted to gap people before the last straightaway. I tried to kind of surge a little bit to get a lead on Zach because I know he has crazy speed. Going into the last straightaway I had him just by a little bit. I just tried to keep going, keep the lead, and then he got me right at the end. … I’m definitely happy because as soon as I crossed the line, I turned behind me and my teammates, Brian and Johnny, were right there, and I knew our four and our five guys are going to come in just a little bit after. I kind of knew we had locked up the team win if we had three in the top five or six, so it was still a good feeling to know that our team was looking good.”
Brian Risse, North Lincoln: “It went really good. The wind was whipping mostly the whole race. So I really wanted to settle behind in the pack and then I really wanted to move up, stay with the pack, stay on the back, let them do all the work. But about 1,000 meters to go, I knew that’s when the race is going to start picking up and everyone’s going to make their move. So then I made my move with them, and with 600 to go, the leaders broke off and I knew I had to go with them. I knew there were a couple of guys behind me, and I just knew I had to sprint in. Third place. I mean this was a 23-second season-best for me, so it was really good to do it on the day where it matters the most at states.”
She’s just a freshman at Carrboro, but Hannah Preisser is already a state champion. Preisser won by nearly 10 seconds over runner-up Angie Allen with a quick time of 18:59.54.
“Well, my coach told me beforehand, when you get out, expect some girls behind you, but after a while they’re going to kind of drop off, and I didn’t want to get stuck behind,” Preisser said. “So I kinda just got out, tried to keep up the pace I could as long as possible, and just make sure there wasn’t anyone too close to me.”
Allen and third-place Alyssa Galvin are teammates at North Lincoln.
“We know the Carrboro girl is really fast, and we just wanted to try to stay as close to her as we could,” Allen said. “We both kind of wanted to be more up there closer to her and maybe have a shot at the title, but I’m still happy with how we did.”
With Preisser a freshman, Allen a sophomore, and Galvin a junior, there’s plenty of talent at the 2A level for 2019.
Also earning all-state honors with top-10 finishes were: 4. Michaela Gammon, East Lincoln (Lowesville, N.C.); 5. Emmaline Daggett, NCSSM; 6. Emma Luther, Eastern Randolph (Ramseur, N.C.); 7. Sofia Wong, NCSSM; 8. Sarah Faith McAllister, Bandys (Sherrills Ford, N.C.); 9. Abby Farris, Lake Norman Charter; 10.Karina Coulter, Foard (Propst Crossroads, N.C.).
North Lincoln’s 2-3 performance wasn’t enough to get by Carrboro for the team title. In addition to Preisser, the Knights had Madeline Ramsden in 12th and Louise Lounes in 21st to win the championship by 11 points over North Lincoln, 69-80. Lake Norman Charter was third with 83 points.
The remaining team finishers: 4: NCSSM; 5. Croatan; 6. Durham School of the Arts; 7. Brevard; 8. East Lincoln; 9. Hendersonville (Hendersonville, N.C.); 10. West Stanly (Red Cross, N.C.); 11. First Flight; 12. East Davidson (Thomasville, N.C.); 13. Smoky Mountain (Sylva, N.C.); 14. Dixon (Dixon, N.C.); 15. Franklin; 16. Ashe County; 17. Currituck County (Barco, N.C.).
Hannah Preisser, Carrboro: “I’m really proud of the work that I’ve put in to get here. I mean, I love running, but if anything I’m just really proud of our team. We’ve worked so hard to get here. … We had our first five in, and, oh, my gosh, I’m so proud of them. We’ve all worked so hard to get here. Being a state champion, I feel like, oh, my gosh, it’s, it’s a wonderful thing. But I’m really just proud of my team.”
Angie Allen, North Lincoln: “It’s really cool. Especially as a sophomore, I never thought it would get up to this. I think that last year 2A was completely different. We had a lot of really fast seniors, so we both were really excited to be in the lead pack this year.”
Alyssa Galvin, North Lincoln: “[Allen and I] run together in everything, workouts and meets and everything. I was kind of falling behind [in the] beginning just a little bit, but I was trying to stay strong and not die out too much. Then towards the end I really tried to pass as many people to get as close to [Allen] as I could. … It was really exciting, especially like a lot more competition than we expected, so it really pushed us a lot harder this year.”
There wasn’t a closer finish than the 1A boys race, as neither Caleb Potter of Polk County (Columbus, N.C.) nor Drew Zink of Lincoln Charter (Westport, N.C.) knew who had won right after crossing the line. Turned out it was Potter, who inched ahead of Zink by .07 seconds (16:28.16 to 16:28.23).
“We both wanted it so bad and I don’t know if I won or if I got second, but I gave it everything I had to win,” Potter said. “This is my senior year. That’s what I just want to do. Come out and give it all today.”
Zink originally thought he had held Potter off.
“I heard a guy on my back, and I thought it was Lucas [Brown of Queens Grant] but turned out to be one of my competitors from Polk County, and it turned out to be an awesome race at the end,” Zink said. “It’s fun to see some good competition out of the West region.”
Aaron Rovnak of Franklin Academy (Wake Forest, N.C.) finished third, with Brown fourth and Brent Surratt of South Davidson (Denton, N.C.) fifth.
The remaining all-state runners were: 6. Ryan Jenkins, Swain County (Bryson City, N.C.); 7. Justice Race, Hayesville (Hayesville, N.C.); 8. Jake Baugher, Community School of Davidson (Davidson, N.C.); 9. Jedd Waldon, Franklin Academy; 10. Jack Berndon, Bishop McGuinness (Kernersville, N.C.).
Lincoln Charter won the team battle, as Zink led five runners in the top 15. Franklin Academy was second, with Bishop McGuinness third, Community School of Davidson fourth, and Hayesville fifth.
The rest of the team finishers were: 6. Murphy (Murphy, N.C.); 7. Swain County; 8. South Davidson; 9. Voyager Academy (Durham, N.C.); 10. Pamlico County (Bayboro, N.C.); 11. Research Triangle (Research Triangle Park, N.C.); 12. Lejeune (Camp Lejeune, N.C.); 13. Queens Grant (Mint Hill, N.C.); 14. Granville Central (Stem, N.C.); 15. Camden County (Camden, N.C.); 16. Pender (Burgaw, N.C.).
Caleb Potter, Polk County: “Me and my coach talked about it before the race, and he said if I can keep the front pack between two poles, I’d have a chance at the end. So that’s just what I was thinking of the whole race and that’s what got me to the finish. I could tell when I went down the hill before you do the curve [to the finish line], they were tiring out and I still had enough left so I just tried to get to the front line and see what would happen. I was just trying to beat Zink because he kicks my butt every other race.”
Drew Zink, Lincoln Charter: “I couldn’t really tell [who won] as I was crossing. Honestly, considering where I was compared to the rest of the guys that were in this field, like Jake and Lucas, I am blessed at this point to get as good of a time as I did. … I was just trying to go out there and see how long I could stay with the top guys and then go from there. But things turned out a little bit easier than I thought, I guess. I mean Lucas had a massive lead on coming down the backstretch, but he just saw he started slowing down. That backstretch is my favorite part of the race. By the end of it I was pretty much caught up to him. And then once I got into the woods, I tried to hold them off.”
Aaron Rovnak, Franklin Academy: “I was thinking of my team when I was running it, saying if I just keep passing people – I was in fourth for most of the race – I’m not losing this fourth place spot because I know my team needs me. The third-place guy, I was just slowly catching him, and I gave it my all and passed them at the end and was able to bring it in for the team. I think our team got second so huge accomplishment for all of us.”
Abigail Hemric of North Stokes (Danbury, N.C.) made sure the girls 1A race wouldn’t be nearly as close as the boys event, as she won in wire-to-wire fashion. The junior was out front nearly the entire distance, winning in 19:34.34 to beat runner-up Rosie Scott-Benson of Voyager Academy by more than 16 seconds.
“It’s amazing,” Hemric said. “I didn’t think I was going to win this year. My goal was just to come in the top 10. For me to do that well was just mind-blowing.”
Freshman Lauren Tolbert of Highland Tech (Gastonia, N.C.) was third as only one senior (Caitlyn Burkett of Franklin Academy) earned all-state honors. The rest of the top 10 were: 5. Victoria Swepson, Research Triangle; 6. Sydney Bolyard, Tri-County Early College (Murphy, N.C.); 7. CiaCia Kishpaugh, Franklin Academy; 8. Taylor Roberts, Franklin Academy; 9. Kilia Hasty, Thomas Jefferson (Henrietta, N.C.); 10. McCarty Hudson, Research Triangle.
Franklin Academy dominated the team race with 47 points, easily beating runner-up Voyager by 28 points. Research Triangle was third, Thomas Jefferson fourth, and Highland Tech fifth.
The remaining teams were: 6. Community School of Davidson; 7. Lincoln Charter; 8. Pine Lake Prep (Mooresboro, N.C.); 9. Camden County; 10. Mountain Island Charter (Mountain Island, N.C.); 11. Lejeune; 12. Raleigh Charter; 13. Union Academy (Monroe, N.C.); 14. Southside (Chocowinity, N.C.); 15. Manteo (Manteo, N.C.); 16. Bishop McGuinness.
Abigail Hemric, North Stokes: “I just tried to prepare as best I could last night and just get good rest and have a good mindset. I honestly didn’t have much of a plan. I just tried to go out as best I could and tried to keep the pace through the third mile.”
Lauren Tolbert, Highland Tech: “I was going to start strong and then around the second mile I was going to pace myself throughout the race and then try and position myself for a strong close. I wanted to get first, but I’m proud of myself for getting third.”