WENDELL — West Johnston cross country runners know what to expect every season. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that lengthy training sessions are a must. But those workouts usually bring hardware this time of year.
They did again Tuesday as West swept the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference team and individual championships at Wendell Community Park. It was the Wildcats’ sixth straight girls team win and their fifth boys title in the past six years.
Jake Betancourt won the boys race in 16 minutes, 23.9 seconds, while Becky Meshaw topped the girls field in 19:18.8.
“I’ve been impressed by this group’s sacrifice and dedication,” said West Johnston coach Patrick Shaw. “We thought the boys team would be OK, but we didn’t have any idea about the girls when we started. But the dedication they’ve shown to working, doing the weekend meets, making that sacrifice is what got them here.”
The Wildcats finished just three points ahead of Clayton in the girls team totals, 33-36.
Patricia Peterson (20:58.5) and Lauren Hermane finished fourth and fifth for the Wildcats, while Clayton had Carmen Tormey (third), Ginny Tormey (sixth), Kaelin Amaya (seventh) and Kayli Watson (ninth) in the top 10.
“Clayton ran a great race,” Shaw said of the girls race. “For our girls to be in it, we had to run amazing. We ran amazing.”
Meshaw won by nearly a full minute.
“I was just trying to go out fast, but concentrate on staying relaxed as much as possible,” she said. “I knew I was running like I wanted to about a mile into the race.”
Southeast Raleigh’s Charity Lackey was the girls’ runner-up at 20:14.9. Southeast was third with 78 points, while Knightdale took fourth.
Betancourt went to the lead early in the boys race and was never threatened. He had no idea how far he was ahead of boys’ race runner-up (teammate Kyle Christ, 16:50.7) until the end of the race.
“I just wanted to go as hard as I could for the first two miles and just take it from there,” Betancourt said. “I don’t look back. To me, looking back is a sign that you’re afraid.”
Garner’s Justin Burkey was third (17:01), while West’s Jaden Turner took fourth and Garner’s Jose Rosas was fifth. West totaled 31 team points, while runner-up Garner had 59. Southeast Raleigh was also third in the boys meet.
Demetri Lyons led the Bulldog boys, taking eighth in 17:55.1.
“We’ve developed a lot of toughness,” Betancourt said. “Coach Shaw works us to death and we love every minute of it. That work is what bonds us, unites us.”