Cardinal Gibbons won the state 3A championship in boys’ and girls’ cross country at Beeson Park Saturday to lead the Triangle-area schools and runners in impressive results on a cold, rainy day.
The two Crusaders’ titles were the 99th and 100th state team championships in school history, combining NCHSAA-sponsored wins (54) with previous titles as a member of the North Carolina High Independent Schools Athletic Association (46).
In the 2A compeitition, the N.C. School of Science and Math repeated as state champions and senior Nick Walker won a tight race for the individual title.
Carrboro completed a team title clean sweep for the area by taking the girls’ 2A title, with defending champ Maysa Araba and Helen Morken finishing one-two.
Gibbons’ boys got the ball rolling with an 18-point win (48-66) over Weddington. David Edwards finished fourth and Connor Lane took seventh for the Crusaders. Connor Peoples finished 12th, Will Harris 20th and J.T. Klimek 25th.
Gibbons coach Nick Mangum has had a hand in some of those 100 titles as both a coach and an athlete. He ran on three state title teams in the late 90s and was the individual champion in 1998.
“Lot of great stories for us today,” Mangum said. “David Edwards fell at the mile, but rallied to finish fourth, so I’m very impressed with him able to do that. (Lane), a sophomore, finished in the top ten, incredible race for an underclassman. Will Harris was our fourth man today, came up huge, saved us. Each and every boy stepped up today, especially given the conditions.”
The Crusaders girls dominated with four runners in the top 10, Sophie Ebihara (second), Marissa Bishop (fifth), Megan Vaughn (sixth) and Annie Pierce (ninth). Abby Doyle finished 26th. The girls had 42 points to finish ahead of Big Eight members Chapel Hill (73) and Cedar Ridge (74).
“On the girls’ side Sophie Ebihara was our top girl. She finished second and had her best race of the year, by far,” Mangum said. “Vaughn was running with a broken toe and Bishop finished high as a freshman. Pierce, a sophomore, made a big jump today.”
Ebihara, a junior, has three straight runner-up finishes as an individual.
“It’s been a tough year, with iron deficiency and an injury, and I’m working my way back,” Ebihara said. “So I’m not disappointed about not finishing first, but I’m happy to be a part of this team. I think we used the weather to our advantage. I think we run well in tough conditions. This is the fifth consecutive team championship for us, so winning that is a big thing for us.”
In the boys’ 2A finals, Walker (16:16.45) trailed defending champ Corbin Boyles (16:16.59) of Maiden early, took the lead with 600 meters to run and held off Boyles to win by 14/100 of a second.
“I wanted to prove myself today,” Walker said. “I definitely felt if I could beat Corbin I could win today.”
Araba (18:54.13) ran virtually unchallenged in her win, finishing 26 seconds ahead of teammate Morken. She finished fourth as a freshman, second as a sophomore and first as a junior and senior.
“It was rough out there; I was just trying to get through it,” said Araba, who said she would have been disappointed with anything less than first for her or her team. “Yeah, we really planned to win it.”
Chapel Hill’s depth allowed the boys to finish third and the girls, second. Tiger senior Drew Roeber was the only Chapel Hill runner to finish in the top ten with a sixth-place.
“It took a lot of heart out there with the conditions,” Roeber said. “From all my teammates and, really, all the runners who ran today. It wasn’t about times, it was about being tough and running hard.”