Chapel Hill has had a pretty good run in cross country meets so far this year, to say the least.
The Tigers consistently finish in the top 10 of any meet they enter, and 15 of them rate among North Carolina’s top 50 runners in the 3A classification.
Last week, however, the Tigers opted to hold back a bit.
With a big meet coming up this weekend in Charlotte – the annual Wendy’s Invitational – Chapel Hill head coach Joan Nesbit Mabe decided her runners didn’t need to wear themselves out in the Big Eight Conference tri-meet they hosted Tuesday. Instead, the Tigers’ top runners kept pace with some of their teammates, working to help them hit personal records for the year.
Chapel Hill’s No. 1 male, Drew Roeber ran alongside fellow senior Nate Bolon and paced him to a personal best of 18:43.0, which was 40 seconds off his previous PR. Bolon finished first in the meet, followed by Dylan Blankenship (18:43.8, another PR) and Roeber (18:44.0).
Roeber couldn’t have cared less that his time Tuesday was well off his PR of 15:58.
“We were doing our best to help our teammates get the time that they wanted, and I think that we were all pretty successful,” Roeber said. “It was a pretty good day.”
Roeber said that seeing the whole team improve has been the best part of the cross-country season. “Definitely. We are getting better and better and better, and that is a lot of fun to watch.”
Even with its top runners holding back, Chapel Hill easily swept the tri-meet.
The CHHS boys took the top 14 places (only the top five count) for a perfect 15 points, while Orange had 57 and Oxford Webb 74.
Orange’s girls did better, with Adalyn Fleming (20:22) and Claire Barger (20:38) taking the first two places. Still, Chapel Hill’s girls, who finished in 12 of the top 15 spots, scored 26 points to Orange’s 33. Webb’s girls didn’t bring enough runners to account for a team score.
“We have so much depth, so much more depth than we have ever had before,” said Chapel Hill senior Elise Matera. “It’s just been amazing.”
One measure of Chapel Hill’s depth came last weekend at the Greensboro Invitational, where the Chapel Hill girls finished first and the boys second behind 4A Broughton.
“Just to give you an idea of how well we ran, they had the top 100 times of people who have run on the (Hagan Stone Park) course, and we only had two from Chapel Hill High,” Nesbit Mabe said. “In the invitational last weekend, we had three make the top 100.”
All seven Chapel Hill girls who ran in Greensboro finished in less than 20 minutes. Clare McNamara finished ninth in 19:02, with Katherine Dokhoylan (19:05) close behind in 11th. Marija Crook (19:11), Regan Roeber (19:25), Anna Passassannte (19:34), Matera (19:53) and Maeve Gualtieri-Reed (19:59) all finished in the top 25.
The same seven finished in under 20 minutes at the Adidas Challenge at WakeMed Park on Sept. 20.
“We never had seven under 20 before, and now we have done it twice in two races so far this season,” Matera said.
Matera is one of the nine CHHS females rated among the state's top 50 runners this year, along with: juniors Crook, Passannante and Regan Roeber; sophomores Gualtieri-Reed and Clare McNamara; and ninth-graders Katherine Dokhoylan, Madi Marvin and Anna Stouffer.
Roeber and Jeffrey Williams led the CHHS entries on the boys' top 50 list, joined by juniors Max Blackburn and Daniel Kleissler, plus sophomores Jonathan Timothy and Eric Vanderford.
Matera also was among the 13 seniors running Tuesday in their last home meet of the short season: Bolon, Roeber, Daniel Margolis, Jeffrey Williams and Peter Williams for the boys’ team, and Paige Childers, Julia Haines, Rosie Kerwin, Morgan Mann, Allie Parker, Mookho Paw and Landis Wipper for the girls.