PITTSBORO — Northwood cross country hasn’t been shy about its lofty goals for 2021. At this week’s Big 8 3A conference championships, the Chargers took their first official step in …
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PITTSBORO — Northwood cross country hasn’t been shy about its lofty goals for 2021. At this week’s Big 8 3A conference championships, the Chargers took their first official step in reaching them.
Hosting the conference meet on their Pittsboro campus, Northwood’s men took second place behind Chapel Hill and its women took third place behind Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill, automatically qualifying both squads for next weekend’s NCHSAA 3A Mideast Regional in Cary.
Five athletes earned all-conference honors, too, while head coach Cameron Isenhour was named the Big 8 men’s cross country coach of the year in a socially distanced post-meet ceremony.
It was, all in all, a solid haul for the Chargers. As final scores were being calculated, though, Northwood’s runners were already putting their success in context and zeroing in on the road ahead.
“We still want to progress,” junior Colin Henry said. “When we go to regionals and states, we want to show up and win and do better against who we've raced against (here). It’s all for the future of the team.”
Wednesday’s five-kilometer races were a litmus test for both teams, considering Chapel Hill is the reigning 3A men’s champion and 3A women’s runner-up. The rest of the conference is deep, too.
So the Northwood men had a strategy: to run “concise and smart,” as Henry put it.
The Chargers know their home course well and zeroed in on a stretch about a third of the way through it, at the one-mile mark, to kick things into high gear after a more conservative start.
“I think that really helped me,” Henry said. “I held back about 10 seconds on my average pace, and as I crossed over the hill coming to the end of the first mile, that’s where I really picked it up.”
It wasn’t enough to catch Chapel Hill seniors Emil Arangala and Lucas Nervo-Jabaut, who finished first and second at 16:26.12 and 16:36.24, respectively, but Northwood’s Malachi Levy (third place, 16:41.29) and Henry (fourth place, 16:42.61) beat out the rest of the field by a good five seconds.
Add in solid performances by sophomore Christian Glick (an all-conference runner along with Levy and Henry) and seniors Glenn Porter and Carter Pippin, and Northwood’s final team score was 48 — far from Chapel Hill’s meet-low score of 21, but comfortably above third-place East Chapel Hill’s score of 90.
“We knew this race mattered,” Henry said.
On the women’s side, senior Tessa Yell said most runners also rose to the occasion and hit their individual goals. She, for example, wanted to finish among the top 12 and ended up eighth at 20:51.33.
And junior Caroline Murrell, Northwood’s top women’s runner all season long, finished third at 19:48.27 behind individual champion Abby Weber of Chapel Hill (18:55.87) and East Chapel Hill’s Anna Ivanisevic (19:24.60). Murrell and Yell were both named all-conference.
With freshman Anna Bolejack, senior Liv Riggsbee and junior Ella Hennessey rounding out the rest of the scoring, the Chargers finished third with 70 points behind Chapel Hill (26) and East Chapel Hill (51).
As both of Isenhour’s squads start gearing up for the Jan. 16 regional at WakeMed Soccer Park, Henry and Yell said the Chargers feel as bonded as ever. And that may push them the extra mile.
“We get along well as a team,” Yell said. “We’re pretty much all friends. It feels like a family.”
“We goof off with each other, but when it comes to work, we get it done,” Henry said. “We know that’s the most important thing.”
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