The first month of the cross country season included a hurricane, heat and heavy competition.
The usual suspects emerged in September as teams to beat as the state meet is on the horizon. Several others are identifying themselves as teams to be reckoned with down the stretch.
Region 2-5A is holding steady as one of the strongest in the state as seven teams are in the top 20 of the latest SCRunners Series results, presented by Go-Green Events. The series itself is scored when a team and/or individual meets the requirements of entering and competing in one of the seven meets. The meets include the Eye Opener, Bob Jenkins SCTCCCA Coaches Classic, GTC Tiger Classic, Starlight Reservation Run, Low Country Invitational, Darlington XC Carnival and CiCi's Sandhills Invitational.
Hillcrest is third and just in front of defending state champion Dorman at No. 4. State runner-up Riverside is sixth, while Byrnes (10), Boiling Springs (11), Spartanburg (19) and Mauldin (20) are holding their own.
Boiling Springs' senior Kade Gosnell holds the position as the top runner in the region at No. 2 in the series. Riverside senior Andrew Smith is fifth, and Hillcrest senior Lucas Conti is eighth. Byrnes junior TJ Thigpen is No. 13 in the series.
Eastside's boys are firmly atop Class 4A, as well as in the series standings. The Eagles are led by senior Noah White, who holds the No. 1 ranking. Juniors Jonathan Fox and Luc Sanchez are sixth and ninth, respectively, while sophomore Spain Vaughan is 10th.
The year began with Eastside capturing the International Boys team title at the Eye Opener (watch the race). Greer's Coen Roberts earned the individual medalist with a time of 15:46.70.
Just outside of the top spot is Class 2A defending state champion St. Joseph's. The Knights are led by senior Zac Palmer and junior Brendan McTigue, who are third and fourth, respectively, in the individual standings. Sophomore Tristan McTigue holds the No. 15 position through the first month of the season.
St. Joseph's coach George Carr said that his team is hitting its stride at the right time of the year after coming off a victory at the GTC Tiger Classic.
"I would say the first month of our season didn't go as planned," he said. "We had some silly things that happened with a few runners, and we've gotten past that. I really think at this point in our season we are primed and ready to go. We have Sandhills (Oct. 13) this weekend and looking forward to that. We're ready to finish the season strong and more focused.
Prior to the win at Southside, St. Joseph's had second-place finishes at the Low Country Invitational and Starlight Reservation Run, as well as a third-place finish at the Coaches Classic.
Brendan McTigue (17:24.71) won individual medalist at the Tiger Classic. The Knights placed five runners in the top six.
Riverside's girls hold the top spot in the team standings ahead of region rival Dorman. J.L. Mann, Mauldin, Wade Hampton (G), Byrnes, Seneca, St. Joseph's, Landrum and Wando round out the top 10.
Eastside junior Olivia Henn is atop the individual standings, while Mauldin's Macey Morgan is second. Caroline Linen (St. Joseph's), Kennedy Roush (J.L. Mann) and Pippa Richter (AC Flora) round out the top five.
Riverside has four runners within the top 25. Warriors freshman Elizabeth Rogers leads the way at seventh, followed by junior Jessie Crowley (12th) and Katherine Rogers (13th). Junior Laura Mcgregor is 25th.
The Warriors are coming off a victory at the Disney Cross Country Classic over the weekend in Orlando, Fla. They placed six runners in the top 19 to seal the deal. They started the year off with their fourth consecutive Eye Opener win by placing five runners in the top 16.
Riverside coach Eric Cummings said that his team has overcome obstacles to set itself up for a shot at a sixth straight state championship.
"The team is kind of a little bit behind," he said. "We lost some runners due to tests and had (bad) weather and the hurricane. We had a great weekend in Florida. We competed well. We pretty much dominated in the varsity and JV races. We had seven in the top 10 in the JV race. We have everyone back for the rest of the year and ready to make a run at a sixth straight."
Riverside also won the Starlight Reservation Run and Fight Like Wyatt meets, as well as finishing second at the Coaches Classic.
Daniel's girls won the Coaches Classic by placing two runners first and second in the race. Mari Cagle Lockhart was medalist, followed by Ally Wilson. Hilton Head's boys also took a team title, led by medalist Sam Gilman.
October began with a dynamic performance from Academic Magnet's Colin Baker, who finished third and posted a time of 14:53.60, S.C. no. 1, at the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C. Coen Roberts (15:16.10) finished 11th.
Baker said that he was pleased with the finish.
"The race went very well for me," he said. "I think I executed my race plan well. I started out mid-pack and worked my way up very well at the end." (Full interview)
AC Flora's Pippa Richter won the Darlington XC Carnival with a time of 19:34.22. She felt like she was in the zone during the race.
"I think I sort of zoned out after the first 800 meters," Richter said. "Honestly after the first mile, it was kind of a blur. Coming to the finish line, I heard everyone yelling." (Full interview)
Beaufort's Marlon Belden won the boys race with a time of 16:20.07. Fort Dorchester took the boys team title with a 71-73 decision against Waccamaw. James Island won the girls team title with a 34-47 win against Waccamaw.
Daniel's Alex Zangara finished fifth (16:14.14) and Mauldin's Jake Crow (16:21.79) was 10th in the boys race at the Wendy's Invitational in Charlotte, N.C. (Watch the race). Nation Ford's Katie Pou (18:21.72, S.C. no. 1) was runner-up, while Mari Cagle Lockhart (18:25.58) was fourth and Riverside's Jessie Crowley (19:04.71) was ninth in the girls race.
T.L. Hanna's boys dominated the Domino's Invitational at the Anderson Civic Center. The Yellow Jackets downed Wade Hampton 19-50 to take the team title. Austin Spencer gave T.L. Hanna another first-place finish by taking individual medalist with a time of 17:23.26. The Yellow Jackets' Connor Buckless (17:42.65) and Scott Daughtry (17:49.47) placed second and third, respectively. (T.L. Hanna boys second in 5A team database rankings).
Greenville's Marah Larkin won the girls race with a time of 20:43.10. Landrum's Alexus Atkins placed as runner-up crossing the finish line at 20:50.89. Bleckley County downed T.L. Hanna 55-69 to win the team title.
Walhalla's Emily Arenas won the GTC Tiger Classic girls race with a time of 20:25.66. Walhalla won the team title with a 49-55 decision against J.L. Mann.
Philip Simmons swept the Military Magnet 5K Invitational in North Charleston. Noah Ward won the boys race finishing at 16:44.10, while Hailey Meyers took the girls race at 21:25.