Local teams, runners off to states after a productive regional weekend

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/20/21

CARY — This weekend’s cross country championships will have a distinctive Chatham County flavor.

Thanks to a string of personal records and top-10 finishes at their respective regional meets …

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Local teams, runners off to states after a productive regional weekend

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CARY — This weekend’s cross country championships will have a distinctive Chatham County flavor.

Thanks to a string of personal records and top-10 finishes at their respective regional meets last Friday and Saturday, four of the county’s five high schools will have at least one runner competing in the NCHSAA’s state championship meets, which take place Jan. 22 and 23 in Kernersville.

For the Chatham Charter, Woods Charter, Jordan-Matthews and Northwood programs, that regional success was a penultimate notch on the belt in a season equal parts unpredictable and unforgettable.

Northwood saw its men’s team qualify for the 3A state meet a second year in a row and junior Caroline Murrell advance as an individual. The Woods Charter women advanced as a team to the 1A meet for the first time in five years. And Chatham Charter junior Brandon McKoy and Jordan-Matthews senior Robert Train also advanced as individuals to the 1A and 2A state meets, respectively.

It all played out last Friday and Saturday on Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park cross country course, which hosted the NCHSAA 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A mideast regionals in a rapid two-day span. For a sport that usually concludes in early November, the low temperatures, rain and brief snow flurries were an adjustment.

“I’d never dream of doing a cross country meet in January,” McKoy said with a laugh.

Fresh off an individual conference title last week, McKoy was the first local runner to punch his tickets to states. He finished third in the 1A mideast men’s race with a time of 17:28.50 and earned a bronze medal. It wasn’t the exact finish he’d hoped for, but it was still a season-best time.

That gives McKoy plenty to work with in what will be his third state meet in as many years.

“I’m not going to be discouraged about it,” the junior said. “I feel like I could have given a little bit more toward the end, but I’m glad I got this far.”

Later on Friday, the Woods Charter women made history with their first ever regional runner-up finish. Second only to Research Triangle, the Wolves had five runners among the top 20, led by freshman Ellie Poitras (second place, 20:06.71) and sophomore Maddie Sparrow (fourth place, 21:15.71).

It’s the first time Woods Charter has qualified for the state meet as a team in five years. And the Wolves did it with a team of primarily underclassmen: Poitras, Sparrow, senior Ember Penney (11th place), sophomore Chloe Richard (13th place) and sophomore Grace Costa (20th place).

That has first-year head coach Karen Hawkins excited for both the upcoming state meet, which will be held at the Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex, and the future.

“They’re young,” she said, “but you wouldn’t know it from the way they race.”

Jordan-Matthews senior Train, who won a PAC 7 2A individual conference title last week, qualified for states early Saturday after finishing sixth with a time of 18:29.94 in the 2A mideast men’s race.

Train’s course time was a personal record. And his performance headlined a solid showing for both Jets team. The men finished fifth in team points, and co-head coach Michael Milian said he saw “a lot of improvement” from the women’s team, too.

“He’s definitely a leader on this team,” Milian said of Train. “A lot of people look up to him, the way he carries himself and the way he works hard. You’re really happy for a kid like that.”

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, Northwood’s men racked up five top-20 finishes to place second behind Chapel Hill and advance to their second straight 3A state meet as a team (a stated goal all season).

The Chargers were led by senior Malachi Levy (ninth place, 16:32.58) and junior Colin Henry (10th place, 16:36.85), while sophomore Christian Glick (15th place), senior Glenn Porter (18th place) and senior Carter Pippin (19th place) also contributed.

“When the process is trusted and it’s played out like they play it out,” Northwood head coach Cameron Isenhour said, “it’s a sight to see.”

The Northwood women came up just short on their goal of also qualifying as a team — they finished fourth in the meet, despite a number of season-best times — but junior Caroline Murrell, who finished sixth with a time of 19:10.12, advanced as an individual.

The Chatham Central cross country program didn’t have any state qualifiers, but senior Parker Crowley (22nd place) and freshman Seth Gilliland (36th place) both competed in the NCHSAA 1A midwest regional in Kernersville last Saturday.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.


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