West Johnston senior Kyle Christ led a solid day for Johnston County runners in the NCHSAA State Cross Country Championships Saturday at the Ivey Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville.
Christ finished second in the 4A boys state championship race.
“I'm happy with second place,” Christ said. “First would have been awesome, but I have to be happy with second.”
His finish ties for the best by a West Johnston runner in the state finals. He posted a time of 16 minutes, 3.22 seconds on the afternoon. Broughton's Jeremy Brown won in 15:50.03.
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“Kyle ran an intelligent race considering how bad the conditions were. Mud, wind, etc. it was a mess,” said West Johnston coach Patrick Shaw. “He tried to stay tucked in for the first half as the pace was very conservative at the beginning. In the end he wanted to win, but I think he feels like he gave his best effort on Saturday.
“He was slow to react when the Broughton kid made his move with just under a mile to go, and that was probably the difference. Kyle has worked extremely hard the past couple of years and I am proud of his performance.”
Christ said the wind played most into the race’s slow early pace.
“There were a lot of different lead changes because no one wanted to lead in the wind,” Christ said of Saturday’s race. “At about the two-mile mark, (Brown) got away from me. There was a lot of different footing with the mud and I couldn't respond."
Christ edged ahead in a tight back of runners near the finish line. The second through ninth place finishers came home within 16 seconds of each other. He was coming off of a 13th place finish in the state finals as a junior.
South Johnston sophomore Jacob Gonzalez finished ninth in the 3A state finals. He covered the course in 16:25.84. It was his second consecutive top 10 finish in the state.
Gonzalez posted a sixth place finish a season ago, but couldn’t equal that position in what was a much slower race than the 2013 edition. Gonzalez was one of seven runners to break the 16-minute mark last year.
In this year’s muddy conditions, the only runner to run under 16 minutes was state champion Tanis Baldwin of East Henderson (15:25.83).
It was a great day for all four young Johnston County runners in the 3A championship race. Cleveland’s Gabe Dershem finished 18th in the state (16:35.09) and Corinth Holders’ Patrick Myers came home in 31st place (16:50.18).
Wyatt Dershem — the fourth sophomore runner from Johnston County in the race — finished 42nd (17:13.99).
In the 3A girls race, Kayla Ste. Marie of Corinth Holders finished 21st in 19:56.48.
Princeton had four runners compete in the girls state championships at the 1A level. Altheia Belageo led the Bulldogs with a 63rd place finish (23:28.55). Megan Evans was 71st (24:04.18) and Chelsea Hawley took 82nd (24:59.23. Elizabeth Cole (27:41.82) finished 115th.
In the 1A boys championships, Princeton’s Austin Sullivan — another sophomore — finished 41st in his state championship meet debut. Sullivan finished in 18:31.03.
D. Clay Best contributed.