CARY — Some of the top high school cross country talent in the country met at the WakeMed Soccer Park Saturday, with a few local runners in the mix.
While the competition was of a high degree, so was the temperature, adding another challenge.
But the Green Hope girls took third in their Great American Cross Country Festival Race of Champions. The Falcons have won four straight 4-A North Carolina state championships and finished behind teams from Kentucky and Virginia. High schools from New York and Rhode Island took fourth and fifth.
“We look to run our best in every meet, looking to walk away happy with our efforts,” said Green Hope coach Roger Collins. “The kids ran tough in tough conditions and the upper classmen gave us leadership, so it was a good day, across the board a good effort.”
Sophomore Elly Henes finished 10th to lead the Falcons. Raleigh's Cardinal Gibbons, the defending state 3-A champs, finished 13th in the elite field of 19 in the 5K race.
Gibbons senior Mary Grace Doggett, defending state 3-A champion, paced the Crusaders with a 9th-place finish.
“It was a tough day. I was shocked with the weather,” Doggett said. “The competition was great. As long as I do my best I'm happy with that.”
Ryen Frazier, a junior from Ravenscroft, finished 4th and Broughton senior Megan Sullivan took 6th. Hannah Long, of Eureka High School in Missouri, won with a time of 17:38, 19 seconds ahead of second place.
“I'm always looking to win, but lately I've had back problems,” Sullivan said. “But warming up I thought this could be a great day. I wanted to have a great finish up the hill and I felt great.”
In the boys' Race of Champions, Broughton, ranked 10th in the nation, was expected to challenge for the title, but when top Caps runner Will Roberson dropped out with tightness in his leg a mile and a half into the race, that goal disappeared. The Caps finished 7th.
“Today on the boys side, I'd say we had an off-day,” Broughton coach David Christian said. “We wanted this to be a step forward. We had some difficulties out there, but we'll learn something from it. We didn't finish where we wanted, but our two, three, four, John Dalton Rohr, Jeremy Brown and Asher Smith-Rose stepped up, which will make us stronger.
“On the girls side, Megan was moved to the Champions race late in the week and that's where she needed to be. Today was all about getting back to her championship form, as the defending state champion.”
Fayetteville Terry Sanford's Philip Hall finished 6th and Ryan Speer of North Raleigh placed 12th.