CARY — A wide smile and an even wider margin of victory – a little more than 25 seconds – were two things Apex’s Mihret Coulter carried with him across the finish line in Wednesday’s Southwest Wake Athletic Conference cross country championships. Panther Creek’s Rebekah Greengrass was almost equally dominant on the girls’ side, winning by 20 seconds.
The team side of the SWAC championship was just as lopsided.
Apex’s boys placed five runners in the top 14 and 10 in the top 23 to give the league a fourth different boys’ champion in as many years. The Green Hope girls, winners of the last four 4A state titles, placed five runners in the top six and all 15 were in the top 23.
The Falcons won their sixth straight girls’ conference title, their 11th in the last 12 years.
Greengrass (18:16.33) finished a spot higher than the year before for the second straight season, winning the girls’ individual title after previous runner-up and third-place finishes.
“That was one of my goals this season, and it seems to have come together nicely,” said Greengrass, a junior who was fifth at last year’s 4A state championship, said. “My confidence level is higher than last year because last year, my injury set me back and I wasn’t as confident as I should have been.”
Next across the finish line on the girls’ side was Green Hope sophomore Elly Henes (18:36.75), the daughter of N.C. State women’s cross country coach Laurie Henes. The Falcons used a pack running style that has allowed its balanced teams of years past to excel in bigger meets.
“It was nice to be able help pace my teammates and run with them almost the whole way until the last mile,” Henes said. “We’re trying to focus on running as a group. It helps push each other and it works best.”
Only the top five runners’ scores count toward the team score, but seven receive points. The Falcons were so good on Wednesday that they did not receive points for the 10th-best runner in the conference.
While the Green Hope girls were expected to do that well, the same couldn’t be said of boys’ favorite Apex. But after missing out on the state competition last year – the Cougars were fifth in the 4A Mideast regional, just outside the cutoff – the boys worked for a moment like this.
Apex had two top-20 runners who did not receive points.
“That motivates the whole team to get better. In the past year, we’ve been working as a group and you see what happens,” Coulter said.
Coulter (15:33.97), who shaved almost 30 seconds off his time from last year, led the change.
“I have been working hard to get this,” Coulter, a senior, said.
Following Coulter in the top 15 boys’ runners (in order) were: Cary’s Dean Abushouk, Green Hope’s Tom Nobles, Apex’s Carl Geiger, Cary’s Josh Barrett, Middle Creek’s Jack Cawley, Fuquay-Varina’s Parker Lee, Cary’s Robel Tecle, Panther Creek’s Alec Carlson, Apex’s Jordan Kokoska, Apex’s Wyatt Miller, Green Hope’s William Jordan, Green Hope’s Jonathan Bakley, Apex’s Spencer Colwell and Apex’s Jonathan Seith.
Holly Springs’ top finisher was Gavin Kinkead (27th) and Athens Drive’s top finisher was Kevin Page (64th).
Finishing behind Greengrass and Henes in the top 15 were: Green Hope’s Kelly Fitzgerald, Katie Tomasi, Theresa Enright, Reilly Caldwell and Sarah Taylor, Panther Creek’s Bridgette Sullivan, Green Hope’s Savannah Lips, Elisa Sargent and Sheridan Wood, Cary’s Cayla Rodney and Sarah Venable and Green Hope’s Kayla Hall and Emily Jordan.
Middle Creek’s top finisher was Isabelle Holliday (18th), Holly Springs’ was Erin Schneider (22nd), Fuquay-Varina’s was Morgan Hoyt (48th) and Athens Drive’s was Morgan Wade (61st).
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps