Jacob Gonzalez and Austin Carroll had reason to smile after the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state 3A cross country meet on Saturday at Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex.
But they also both wanted more.
South Johnston’s Gonzalez finished second, with Corinth Holders’ Carroll in third as both seniors improved from their 2015 finishes. Gonzalez was fifth a year ago, while Carroll was 33rd.
“This is one of the weirdest races I’ve ever had,” said Gonzalez, who trailed winner David Melville of Northern Guilford by 14 seconds. “I’ve only ever run here for states, so I can’t really know how to go fast or how to escape a big crowd. My biggest weakness here was I didn’t have much space to move out. I was trapped inside a little maze, and I couldn’t get out.”
Gonzalez battled the entire race, trying to get free from a big pack. By the time he did, his first mile was too fast for his pace.
“I couldn’t move, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear what time it was,” Gonzalez said. “As soon as I escaped the big crowd to hang with the other guys, my mile was too fast.”
He wanted to run it in five minutes, five seconds, but instead was 12 seconds faster. Still, he was pleased with earning all-state honors with his runner-up finish.
“It’s pretty cool,” Gonzalez said. “I was looking forward to first place, but I guess this is a lesson: I’ve got track season, and I can work out a lot more than I have.”
Carroll’s 30-spot improvement was a big accomplishment. He trailed Gonzalez by less than two seconds.
“To move up 30 places in a year is pretty good,” Carroll said. “I’m still hungry for a little bit more, and I’m not entirely satisfied with it, but it’s a good day.”
Carroll credited a change in training this season for his improvement.
“My training’s been set up a little bit different this year,” Carroll said. “I’ve done more tempo runs than long runs, and I think that helped. Also, the quality of my runs have been getting better. Last year, I would stop in the middle of a run and stay there for five minutes. Now, I’m finishing all my runs, so there’s definitely been an improvement with my training.”
Carroll and Gonzalez were two of four top-10 individual finishers from Johnston County in Saturday’s boys championship races.
Gable Dersham of Cleveland finished 10th overall in the boys’ race.
Austin Sullivan of Princeton finished seventh in the boys’ 1A event.
Patrick Myers was 13th for Corinth Holders, which finished seventh in the team standings.
The Pirates girls’ team finished seventh, paced by sophomores Callie Blanchard (39th) and Kaelin Sanderford (40th).
The NCHSAA Boys Soccer Playoffs
First Round Results
2A: North Johnston 5, Jacksonville Northside 2
3A: Pittsboro Northwood 3, Cleveland 2; Corinth Holders 1, Hillsborough Cedar Ridge 0; Chapel Hill 9, Smithfield-Selma 0
4A: East Chapel Hill 3, West Johnston 0; Fayetteville Pine Forest 2, Garner 0
Second Round Matches: Tuesday, Nov. 8
2A: Dixon at North Johnston
3A: Corinth Holders at Lee County