Riverside girls extend streak, prepare for next step

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COLUMBIA -- They accomplished what they came to accomplish Saturday, but it was a stepping stone.

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Riverside's girls cross country team won its third consecutive Class AAAA championship at Sandhills Research Center, which was almost a foregone conclusion. The Warriors have been running way ahead of the pack for a few years now, and they were way ahead Saturday.

Riverside finished with 20 points. Dutch Fork was second with 116, which gave Riverside the second-largest margin of victory (boys or girls) in the history of the state meet. The Riverside girls had the largest (127) two years ago.

"We didn't taper at all, so the girls ran a little bit tired," Riverside coach Eric Cummings said. "We didn't back off at all. We're training for some offseason stuff. But they ran well."

Riverside had five in the top eight, led by state champion Jessie Crowley, an eighth-grader who out-dueled Woodmont sophomore Emma DeRoberts for the title. Crowley finished in 18:30, DeRoberts in 18:33.

Crowley also became the second straight Riverside girl to win the championship. Cate Ambrose won in 2014.

"We could have any girl win on any day," Cummings said.

Last year, Ashley Fallow pushed Ambrose and out-kicked her on a couple of occasions, such as in the Greenville County meet. Ambrose won the state title, but Crowley emerged this year and led the team until the Upper State meet, when Ambrose placed first.

On Saturday, Crowley roared back to the front.

"It was great for her," Cummings said. "She ran great all year. Her first loss to a teammate was last weekend, and then she came back today."

Crowley overtook DeRoberts for good with about a half-mile to go and finished strong.

"I just gave all my energy at the end," Crowley said.

Fallow (fourth, 19:10), Carter Marchbanks (fifth, 19:15), Ambrose (sixth, 19:19) and Emma Spencer (eighth, 19:26) also made the all-state team, and Anna Yang (16th, 19:45) just missed.

Six of the Warriors' top seven (the other is Abigail Smith) will return, so the train should keep rolling in the same direction.

In fact, the next stop is just a few weeks away. As Cummings said, "We did not taper for this. Our focus was getting them ready for the 29th."

That's the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast Regional Nov. 29 in Cary, N.C. The Riverside girls will be competing as the Warriors Track Club under the direction of Chris Fallow, Ashley's father.

Last year, the Riverside girls were seeded third and finished 11th.

In comparing times at the state meet from last year to this year, Cummings said they were about the same.

"If we tapered, I guarantee we could have gone a lot faster," he said. "We were doing speed workouts on Wednesday of this week."

--- Wando's boys, who won for the second time, were runners-up each of the past two years.

Wando beat Wade Hampton by five points, leaving the Generals as runners-up in AAAA for the first time, but they know the drill.

Wade Hampton has won six state titles in AAA under Rick Zeller, but the Generals have also been runners-up eight times in AAA.

--- Having won back-to-back titles, Ashley Ridge junior Jackson Ellenburg could become just the ninth boy to win at least three consecutive individual championships. Only Christ Church's James Quattlebaum (2011-2014) has won four in a row.

--- In Class AAA boys, when Ben Gilman ended a string of three consecutive Daniel champions, he also brought the title back to Hilton Head Island.

The last winner before Daniel's trio of Andre Ivankovic (2012), Gabe Haughey (2013) and Jacob Slann (2014) was the Seahawks' Jack Manesiotis in 2011.

Gilman (16:02) also led a parade of Seahawks to the finish line. Only Eastside's Matthew Tinsley, who finished third, interrupted Hilton Head's dominance.

Danny Shaughnessy (second, 16:06), Sam Gilman (fourth, 16:11), Sam Beattie (fifth, 16:13), Nahuel Coronel (sixth, 16:28), Ryan Moosbrugger (seventh, 16:28) and Jack Beattie (eighth, 16:34) enabled the Seahawks to finish with 18 points.

That tied the record for the lowest score in a state meet. Greenville also had 18 in 1982.

Hilton Head, which had only won once before 2009, has now won three years in a row and six of the last seven.

--- The Hilton Head girls made it a Class AAA sweep for the Seahawks for the third year in a row.

Hilton head had the second- and third-place finishers in sophomores Mallory Liggett (18:40) and Miyah Shatz (19:00). Liggett came in first the previous year, but she was beaten by Daniel eighth-grader Mari Cagle Lockhart, who crossed in 18:36.

Lockhart began running as a seventh-grader after attempts at other sports.

"I tried soccer, softball, swimming and nothing clicked," she said, "but then in running I just got that aggressiveness."