South Johnston runner Jacob Gonzalez was already looking to 2016 after finishing fifth in the NCHSAA 3A boys state cross country championship at Ivey Redmon Sports Complex on Saturday.
Gonzalez is a junior, and with three seniors finishing in front of him Saturday, he should be a leading contender next year.
“I’ll be back next year,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully, it won’t rain. It always does; it always messes up my party. I never had a time to celebrate.
“Hopefully in track it’ll be different.”
Of course, Gonzalez was a contender this year. Running on a muddy, slippery course, Gonzalez finished 31 seconds behind winner David Melville of Northern Guilford, despite nearly falling a couple of times. He clocked in at 16:43.99.
“I’m never satisfied,” Gonzalez said. “I’m always happy, but this should’ve been a ’1’ for me. I trained really hard. I guess we have to have a day we don’t do that well. I slipped a couple times, and I think that’s the reason why I came in a little late.
“This could’ve been anybody’s race. When it’s all slippery and everything, you don’t really know how the course is going to be until you run it. I was just as shocked as everybody.”
Gonzalez called it the toughest course in which he’s ever had to race.
“I wasn’t running,” Gonzalez said. “I was just skating.”
Gonzalez was the top runner in the area competing Saturday. Gabe and Wyatt Dershem of Cleveland were 22nd and 44th in the boys’ 3A race. Gable’s time was 17:18.32 and Wyatt finished at 17:47.88.
Junior Austin Carroll paced Corinth Holders with a 33rd-place finish, as the Pirates finished 11th in the team race.
Smithfield-Selma’s Caleb Silver, a junior, finished 52nd in 17:51.35. He was just behind Corinth Holders’ Patrick Myers (51st at 17:50.64). Other Pirate runners included Andre Hichue (73, 18:11.57), Chad Driscoll (74, 18:12.77), Cameron George (126, 19:50.84), Matthew Lewis (127, 19:50.9) and Ale Dudash (134, 20:16.26).
Corinth Holders finished ninth in the girls’ 3A event, led by senior Kayle Ste. Marie’s 30th-place finish.
Callie Blandford was 59th for the Pirates in 21:59.5 and Kayla Alznauer took 65th in 22:07.94. Other Corinth Holders’ state finishers were Rachel Strickland (83, 22:41.15), Kaelin Sanderford (92, 22:52.68), Cameron Rutherford (99, 23:15.1) and Brianna Everett (116, 24:11.04).
Cleveland’s Cullins sisters finished 67th and 89th, respectively. Jessica Cullins was 67th at 22:08.74 and Jasmine Cullins was 89th at 22:45.61.
Southeast Raleigh senior Jason Putnam finished 32nd in the 4A boys championships. Putnam clocked in at 16:58.67.
Clayton senior Alex Roy (17:31.24) finished 69th in the boys’ 4A race, while Princeton junior Austin Sullivan was 28th in the boys’ 1A competition at 18:29.16.
NCHSAA Cross Country State Champions
4A Boys: Winston-Salem Mt. Tabor
4A Girls: Green Hope
3A Boys: Weddington
3A Girls: Chapel Hill
2A Boys: N.C. School of Science & Math
2A Girls: Brevard
1A Boys: Walktertown
1A Girls: Grey Stone Day School