This article previously stated that only some teams and runners were moving on to regionals. In cross country, each team goes to regionals with its top seven runners.
For the winning Southwest Wake Athletic 4A Conference teams, Wednesday at WakeMed Park was about adding to the trophy case. For the individual winners, it was finding a missing piece of the accolades they have collected.
Green Hope’s girls notched their seventh straight conference championship. Apex’s boys repeated.
Cary’s Dean Abushouk carried on his family legacy, becoming the third sibling to win the boys’ title. Green Hope’s Elly Henes, an all-state performer last year, claimed her first title.
Apex’s top five runners showed great depth, finishing among the top 11 – within 28 seconds of one another – to edge a Green Hope team which had its top five runners among the top 17 just 47 seconds apart.
The Cougars won 37-48 with Derek Duin (16 minutes, 24.10 seconds) leading the way in third place. Green Hope’s Henr Pehr (16:19.60) was runner-up.
“We have two kids running at (North) Carolina off last year’s team. That was a huge loss, but I think our depth has continued to support us. Derek Duin has stepped up huge for us. Ben Savino (fifth) has continued to impress from his last year’s track season,” Apex coach Roy Cooper said. “And then Jordan Kokoska (eighth) and Wyatt Miller (11th), and today Lawson Benfield (10th) had the big race for us.”
Abushouk’s older brothers Bakri and Mohammed combined for three conference titles. Bakri also won the 2012 state title. Dean (16:02.20) showed he could dominate the field, too, winning by more than 17 seconds on a sloppy course.
“My shoes were heavy. It was wet, even before we started,” Dean Abushouk said.
Cary coach Jerry Dotson has seen Abushouk progress each year.
“Early on, what I saw from Dean was – the workouts were good, but when a gun went off – he likes to compete,” Dotson said. “Even when he was a freshman, he’d go to the front even though maybe he didn’t belong up there.”
Henes (18:19.30) is hoping this year goes much like last, when she peaked at the state championships. It’s how she finished third in the state after being denied a conference title by Panther Creek’s Rebekah Greengrass.
“This is actually the first title that I’ve ever won,” the junior said. “So I was really trying for that title.”
Henes separated from runner-up Greengrass (18:29) and teammate Katie Tomasi (third, 18:49.60) at the 2-mile mark.
Green Hope, which has won the past five 4A state titles, had five runners among the top nine, 54 seconds apart. In fact, Green Hope placed 12 of its 15 runners among the top 17.
Green Hope had 22 points, topping Panther Creek (63) and Apex (75).
The Falcons used the race as a way to finalize which seven girls who will be used in regionals.
“We run best when we run selflessly. It’s kind of hard when you’re fighting for a top-seven spot, but when the kids are running selflessly, they’re running their best,” said Green Hope girls’ coach Roger Collins.
Each team will take seven runners to regionals, where the top four teams and next-best five individuals will advance to states.
Boys: 1. Apex 37; 2. Green Hope 48; 3. Panther Creek 93; 4. Cary 97; 5. Middle Creek 126; 6. Holly Springs 160; 7. Fuquay-Varina 173; 8. Athens Drive 205
Girls: 1. Green Hope 22; 2. Panther Creek 63; 3. Apex 75; 4. Cary 106; 5. Middle Creek 125; 6. Holly Springs 181; 7. Fuquay-Varina 217; 8. Athens Drive 236