FOUR OAKS — Another Eastern Carolina 3A Conference cross country boys team championship wasn’t really something veteran South Johnston coach Joe Loia saw as a real possibility when the season began. But the Trojans ran their way to another league title Wednesday on their home course, completing a first for the program – four straight team league championships.
South finished with four boys runners in the top 10, including runner-up Seth Rogers.
“We’ve had some good things happen this year,” Loia said. “Winning four conference titles in a row is something we’ve never done here. We had a ninth grader (John Cuppett) finish 10th today; he just keeps getting better. Seth ran a great race after missing two weeks.”
Rogers, who missed time after being accidentally hit in the face by a thrown glass bottle, came in at 18:14, while Blake Parker was fifth in 18:46. Evan Raynor (seventh, 19:06) and Cuppett was 10th (19:29).
Cleveland’s Jarrett Hayes won his second straight ECC individual boys title in 17:43.
“I was just running to win the race,” Hayes said. “I wasn’t thinking about a time or anything. I just wanted to get out as fast as I could. After the first mile, when I was at five minutes, I knew I was doing what I wanted to do.”
Erwin Triton junior Ashley Dean completed a run of unbeaten performances in conference meets to lead the Hawks to the girls team championship. Dean set a personal best time, winning in 21:36.
“I did what I wanted to do, win a conference championship and get a P.R. (personal record),” Dean said. “Being a conference champion is a big deal to me.”
The Hawks had Emily Hamilton finish fifth, while Savannah Weaver ran eighth. Triton totaled 31 points, 14 ahead of runner-up Eastern Wayne. Cleveland’s girls were third, paced by Claire Kuppler, who was third in 23:01. Alex Nikas took 13th for the Rams.
South Johnston’s Dava McLamb was the conference runner-up in 22 minutes flat. It was her second straight conference runner-up finish.
“Dava is tough as nails,” Loia said. “She went out with the idea that she was going to have to break Ashley early to have a chance to win. She gave it everything, it just didn’t happen.”
McLamb’s teammate, Caroline Dorman, finished 10th.
Triton also finished second in the boys team standings (37 pionts behind South Johnston), with Pikeville C.B. Aycock third and North Lenoir fourth. Jared Keever finished fourth for Triton, while Justin Hamilton took ninth.
Cleveland was sixth. Pratik Ambelal finished 15th for the Rams in 19:49, while Steven May was 25th.