SENECA - The Seneca High girl's cross-country team finished a memorable season in 2016, winning the Region 1-3A championship in October for the first time in the program's history and, a month later, placing second in the state championship, the highest finish ever for girls cross-country at the school.
Outdoor rankings | Calendar
The celebrating didn't end there, however. One of the team's own, senior Dakota Morrow, learned that she had been accepted into the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Port, N.Y.
Morrow is the first student from Seneca High to be accepted to the academy.
"It's been an exciting year for me and for the team," Morrow said last Saturday before competing in the Golden Corner Invitational track meet at Tom Bass Field.
Morrow didn't set a personal record in her concluding season in high school cross-country; that came in her junior year when she turned in a 19:44 at the 2015 regional.
Morrow said she expects to do better at USMMA.
"It's been a good senior year. I came really close to my PR, but I've been really busy with school and things," she said. "But, once I get into college I'll be really focused on my running. It's going to be great."
She hopes to run as low as 22 in college, where the cross-country distance is six kilometers instead of five at the high school level.
Morrow said she had never run competitively until seventh grade, and even then she needed outside encouragement. She was going to do cheerleading, but her dad asked her to try running for one year.
"In my first race, I was supposed to run around 35, which was the fastest I'd ever run in practice," Morrow said. She ran a 26 (5K) in her first competitive event at Nettles Park in Clemson.
"That's the day I fell in love with running and I haven't quit since," she said.
Seneca's Chris White, who has been Morrow's cross-country coach since that first year, said Dakota should do well at the college level and beyond.
"She has really developed as a distance runner," White said. "As she has grown up, our team has grown up as well."
Morrow, along with fellow senior Allie Lee, has been a key factor in the girl's cross-country team's success this season, White said.
Morrow said she plans to study engineering at the academy.
"I'm extremely excited and proud of what she's accomplished," her father, Brooks Morrow said. "The world is getting a gem."