Princeton’s cross country teams may be as good as they’ve ever been. The Bulldogs proved that with their sweep of the team championships at the Carolina 1A Cross Country Championships on Tuesday.
While those successes were celebrated, Princeton quickly turned a keen eye to the next starting line they’ll toe: the regional championships.
The Bulldogs’ boys team completed an unbeaten run in conference meets with their team win, led by individual conference champion Jose Aguillon. Aguillon finished in 17 minutes, 58 seconds, 12 seconds ahead of teammate Austin Sullivan.
“He’s been running for eight months with us and he’s likely to be a top 10 guy in the region,” Princeton coach Mark McLamb said of Aguillon. “He’s a fun one to coach. If you told him he would be a better runner if he banged his head into a wall, he’d do it 10 or 15 times.”
Hunter Mitchell (sixth in 19:27), Brent Hurst (seventh in 19:43), Jose Moreno (11th in 20:54) and Calvin Santiago (12th in 20:55) also had top-12 finishes for Princeton, which totaled 24 points. Meet host Hobbton was second with 52 points. Rosewood took third and Lakewood was fourth.
“Going undefeated as a team in every conference meet is a pretty good year,” McLamb said of his boys squad. “When you look at their times, this is the best boys team ever at Princeton High School. But going forward, you realize that 1A cross country, with the addition of the private and charter schools, is better than it’s ever been across the state.”
The Bulldogs are currently ranked 10th in the state and will need to finish in the top 10 in the Oct. 25 regional championships at WakeMed Park in Cary. Princeton will need to be among the top four finishing teams there in order to advance to the state championships on Nov. 1.
The 1A Mideast and 4A Mideast regionals are both being held at WakeMed Park. Princeton is the host school for the 1A event.
The Bulldogs’ girls team returned to the form they had earlier in the season when they won three conference meets, taking the team title with 36 points, 19 ahead of North Duplin. Fellow championship contender Hobbton, which ran without one of its lead runners who was out with an injury, was third with 72 points. Rosewood and Lakewood were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Princeton’s Megan Evans was second in 23:12, while Chelsea Hawley was fifth and Altheia Balageo took sixth. Amber Johnson’s ninth place run gave Princeton four runners in the top 10.
“The girls are now three-time conference champions but they’re in the same boat when it comes to regionals,” McLamb said. “They’re a team on that bubble in the running for a fourth place finish. They’re ranked fourth in the regional, but you have to have your best day at regionals to have a chance at a spot in the state meet.”
Haley Thurston, who like Aguillon didn’t lose a conference race all season, won the girls’ individual title in 22:17.
Elizabeth Cole and Kassandra Velasquez were 15th and 16th for Princeton and Jasmine Rubio ran 30th.
Princeton’s Juan Velasquez and Joseph Hatcher finished 26th and 29th, respectively, in the boys race.
Neuse Charter’s Nathan Smith finished 44th in 27:05.