CHAPEL HILL — Karen Hawkins has had some talented teams before, but none have been quite as deep as this year’s Woods Charter cross country teams.
Coming off a 2021 season that saw the Wolves finish first in the boys competition and second in the girls competition at the 1A mideast regionals, Woods Charter came into the fall with hopes of putting together an even more successful season.
On Sept. 27, Woods Charter competed in its fourth Central Tar Heel Conference meet of the season and swept both races. The boys won with a low score of 41, besting Chatham Charter’s 59. On the girls side, the Wolves finished with 15 points, which was 30 points better than second-place Triangle Science & Math.
In the girls race, Woods Charter sophomore Anna Peeler placed first with a time of 21:02, 27 seconds faster than second place. Peeler, who finished ninth at last year’s 1A regionals, set a new personal record at the meet last week.
“I felt really good,” Peeler told the News + Record about the race. “I knew exactly where the trail was. In some meets, I don’t know exactly where the course goes, so I have to slow down a little. I felt like I had an advantage because it was a home race. I felt like having my teammates cheer for me also helped me go faster. When I came in first, I was completely shocked.”
Placing second in the girls race was senior Maddie Sparrow (21:29), while junior Ellie Poitras finished fourth (22:38). As the top returners on the girls side this season, Poitras and Sparrow have played a large part in Peeler’s development from last fall.
“The girls really push and inspire each other,” Hawkins said. “They hopefully understand that. Anna has really has learned a lot from Ellie and Maddie, and she’s kind of blossomed this year and has been more confident in her racing ability. All the girls train together daily, and that’s been really helpful for them.”
For the rest of the season, Peeler said she has personal goals of finishing top 10 at regionals and breaking the 21-minute mark in a race, something only four runners — including Sparrow and Poitras — accomplished at last fall’s regional race.
On the boys side, Woods Charter didn’t have a top-eight finisher, but the top six boys for the Wolves all finished between ninth and 16th. Leading the way was sophomore Alex Serrone, who came in ninth with a time of 20:13. Placing 10th, 11th and 12th right behind him were sophomore Ben Valentine and seniors Ian Gao and Ethan Galiger.
The top boys finisher at the meet was Chatham Charter senior Silas Christenbury, who came in second with a time of 18:50. The Knight also got a strong finish from Adam Reese, who came in fourth at 19:30.
Last year’s 1A mideast regional champions, the Woods Charter boys received a big boost this week with the return of senior Colin Thompson to practice.
Thompson, who finished 14th at last year’s 1A mideast regional in a time of 19:22.93, broke his collarbone while playing for Woods Charter’s boys soccer team earlier in the season, and he was just recently cleared to resume running for the Wolves’ cross country team.
Woods Charter also competed in a conference meet at Wake Med Soccer Park on Tuesday. The 2022 1A mideast regionals will take place Oct. 29. Last year’s regional race was also held at Wake Med.
Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.
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