Research Triangle dominated Friday’s North Central Athletic Conference boys cross country conference championship in its first year in the league, while Franklin Academy also won in convincing fashion in the girls race at WakeMed Park in Cary.
Research Triangle junior Madison Daniel turned in the only sub-17 time to lead the boys, finishing in 16:50, despite being hindered by recent back problems.
“I haven’t ran my fastest lately,” Daniel said. “I was looking to go much faster around this time, but right around (the first meet of the year) my back started giving me problems.”
Rounding out the top three finishers for the boys was Research Triangle’s Michal Swepson and Franklin Academy’s Justin Martin, posting 17:11 and 17:19, respectively.
Research Triangle, only in its third year as a school and with no seniors, has been very successful so far in cross country.
“We’re just hoping for the best and working hard, just looking for some personal records for all of our kids,” Raptors and NCAC boys coach of the year Victor Swepson said. “(I’m) looking for the kids to work hard, and that’s about all you can ask for really.”
Finishing first for the girls was Franklin Academy junior Hannah Zenker, posting the only sub-20 time of 19:48. Following Zenker was Woods Charter’s Jade Olglvie and Raleigh Charter’s Christy Witcher, posting times of 20:58 and 21:34, respectively.
Patriots coach and NCAC girls coach of the year Beth Martin noted that the Patriots girls team has developed desipte losing two key runners from last year.
As far as the Franklin Academy boys team, Martin called the progression a “gradual process.”
“They are running faster than they ever have before. My top runner broke 17 minutes and we’ve never done that before,” Martin said. “They’ve really come along, which is really good. I’m losing two seniors, who are the top two runners, so we’ll have a lot of rebuilding next year but I think the foundation for next year looks pretty good.”
Raleigh Charter also had an impressive showing Friday, placing two runners in the conference top 10 in both boys and girls.
Having lost nearly half of both the girls and boys teams due to graduation, Phoenix coach Marty Gaal was frank about his goals for the Phoenix in the coming weeks.
“My expectations are always high. … I think a couple of other teams have some strong teams, but we’re all going to be in the mix,” Gaal said. “I’d like to see a couple of my guys run a little faster. I have high expectations but I’m a realist.”
All teams will return to WakeMed Park Saturday at the NCHSAA 1A Mideast regionals, which Research Triangle won last year.