The N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state cross country championships at Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex on Saturday was more like a Wake County Cup:
Broughton won a close battle with Green Hope for the boys’ team title, with Cardinal Gibbons in third.
Gibbons ran away with the girls team title, with Green Hope second.
The Crusaders’ Connor Lane won the boys individual race.
Leesville Road’s Nevada Mareno again dominated the girls’ race.
The Capitals won their fifth boys’ title in the last six years, rebounding from a runner-up finish to Mount Tabor last season. Broughton didn’t have a single runner in the top 10, but the Caps’ pack was enough to edge the Falcons by one point.
Broughton scored 67, with Green Hope getting 68 and Gibbons 74.
“North Carolina continues to produce quality individuals and teams,” Broughton coach David Christian said. “It speaks to the fact that these guys run together, and in cross country terms, it’s called ‘packing up.’ They definitely did that. We knew that was our strength. You never win the race with your No. 1 or No. 2 guy. You win it with that 3-4-5 pack. Those guys stepped up and got it done for us. One point, but I’ll take it.”
Apex’s Ben Savino finished fourth, with Green Hope’s Finn McBride seventh and Payton Barish eighth. Gibbons’ Sam Grelck was ninth.
Broughton packed it in with Stuart Holmes 11th, Jacob Wells 12th, Andrew Brooks 13th and Ryan Brown 20th.
“Thank you to the guys I coached because they believed in the process all year,” Christian said. “Congratulations to them. It means a tremendous amount, and hopefully we can keep coming back and performing well.”
Lane didn’t lead much early in the race, but that’s not unusual. Once he got the lead, he pushed ahead of Mount Tabor’s Cameron Ponder and set the course record of 15 minutes, 12.57 seconds.
“The whole year, I wanted to come back here and get it done,” Lane said. “To do it, I’m just so happy. I’m glad I can represent Gibbons and my team well. To finally get it done, I’m so happy about it.”
Mareno’s biggest opponent this season was Mareno herself.
The Stanford recruit admitted to coasting – at least by her lofty standards – early in the season after winning the 2015 title by 44 seconds. But after coaxing from coaches, friends and family, Mareno “wanted to make sure I lived up to the standards I set for myself.”
She did that with a 16-second win over Ragsdale’s Sara Platek.
“You come in the season as the favorite, and it’s a lot easier to slack off, or think, ‘Oh, I got it last year. I should be fine,’ ” Mareno said. “That affected me for the first month or so (of the season). But I’m really proud because I rebounded and got myself focused for this and pulled it back together.”
As Mareno was running away with the individual race, Gibbons dominated the team battle as Sloan Walter finished fourth, Katharine Priu fifth and Annie Pierce sixth.
“Each year is a new year, and that’s what we focus on, not what we’ve done in the past,” Crusaders coach Nick Mangum said. “All of our kids understand that nothing’s a given. If they want to be great, they have to go make it happen. Days like today are about trusting what you’ve done, believing your teammates have got your back and executing – doing what we’ve prepared for since June. I’m very, very proud.”
Gibbons won the 4A title for the second year in a row – after winning five consecutive titles in 3A. Pierce, by the way, is the lone senior in the Crusaders’ top 10, so the dominance could continue.
“We’ll be fine next year,” Mangum said. “We’re going to have to have a couple girls step up to fill (Pierce’s shoes), but I’m excited for what’s to come.”