Chapel Hill cross country coach Joan Nesbit Mabe couldn’t contain her excitement, bouncing from runner to runner after her Tigers completed a dominant victory in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A girls’ cross country championships at Ivey Redmon Sports Complex on Saturday.
And who could blame her? The past U.S. Olympian had just seen five of her runners finish in the top 10 of the team competition to score a triumphant victory for Chapel Hill.
“I can’t help it,” Nesbit Mabe said of her excitement. “This was my dream. After I had my first life as a runner, and then my life as a mother, this was my dream to coach Chapel Hill High. For 20 years, I’ve wanted this. I’m so excited to be here for these kids.”
Sophomore Katherine Dokholyan finished second, junior Clare McNamara third and Marija Crook fifth as Chapel Hill scored 32 points, 44 fewer than second-place Marvin Ridge in a Tiger runaway.
“The hope was to get three all-state and then two more top 20,” Nesbit Mabe said. “We did not think about top five, but we went 2-3-5. We’ve been running as a pack all year, and that pack of four took turns rotating out of the lead to make sure the pack kept moving.”
Madi Marvin finished 10th among runners who were part of the team competition, while teammate Grace Tate rounded out the five runners who scored for Chapel Hill in 12th. While there was some mystery among other classifications after each race who would win the team competition, there was no doubt Chapel Hill was the 3A girls’ champion.
“I’m so proud of our whole team for winning,” Dokholyan said. “Everyone has been training so hard, and we’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. I’m so proud of everyone.”
Chapel Hill nearly swept the team titles, as the Tiger boys finished second to Weddington. Senior Daniel Kleissler was the top Tiger runner, finishing 10th overall.
Nesbit Mabe told her runners she’d give a crown to whoever had the best race, but she expanded those plans later Saturday to include both teams
“I’ve got to find 14 crowns,” Nesbit Mabe said.
South Johnston’s Jacob Gonzalez was looking for a crown, too, but the sloppy conditions forced him to finish in fifth place. That was still the best finish for an area runner.
“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.”
Gonzalez said the course was the hardest on which he’s ever had to run.
“I wasn’t running,” Gonzalez said. “I was just skating.”
A junior, Gonzalez hopes to be back in contention next season.
“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.”