Last weekend saw one of the state's top girls runner return and in a fine fashion.
St. Joseph's junior Ava Dobson (S.C. No. 3) captured gold in the Varsity Girls Gold race with a time of 18:31.96 at the CiCi's Sandhills Invitational in Columbia. Dobson topped Heathwood Hall's Jais Ward (S.C. No. 5), who finished at 19:12.26. It was Dobson's first race since suffering an injury at last year's 2A state track and field meet.
May River's Emma Peluso, A.C. Flora's Pippa Richter and St. Joseph's Caroline Linen rounded out the top five.
The Knights also won the team title 116-126 against James Island. Dutch Fork, Hilton Head and Waccamaw were third through fifth.
St. Joseph's followed up the weekend by winning the Region I-2A championship with a 42-53 win against Landrum at Christ Church in Greenville. Dobson did not participate in the race due to doctor's orders which state that she must to be limited to running once a week, according to Knights coach Marie Kernell. However, Kernell feels her team is strengthening at the right time.
"It's been a tough season for some of my girls," she said. "My No. 1, Ava, was injured at the state meet and been in rehab until last week and came back to win gold at Sandhills... She's a phenom. It's a God-given talent. I feel like she will get faster (with each race.) I'm hoping she can stay healthy and have a good track season and come back strong next year."
Kernell praised several members of her team including senior Lilian Jaraczewski, a transfer from Wisconsin, sophomore Brigid Alvis, sophomore Caroline Linen and senior Annika Bissinger.
South Carolina High School League rules state that a runner must complete two races to qualify for the state meet, which will be held on Nov. 3 in Columbia. Kernell said that Dobson will return at the Greenville County meet to be held on Saturday at Woodmont High School. She added that her team should be at full strength throughout the remainder of the year as it looks for an 11th straight state title.
Kernell said that her runners are excited to have their No. 1 runner back on course.
"They worry about each other," she said. "They're not as concerned about 'Will we win without Ava?' They are just happy because they know how much she's ready to run."
James Island senior Dolan Owens (S.C. No. 3) earned individual medalist finishing at 15:36.68 in the Varsity Boys Gold race. Beaufort's Marlon Belden (S.C. No. 4) was runner-up with a time of 15:48.07. Hilton Head's Sam Gilman (S.C. No. 5), Noah Ward (Philip Simmons) and Sam Boykin (Bishop England) were third through fifth.
CiCi's Sandhills Invitational was the final race in the SCRunners Series, presented by Go-Green Events. The series was one of seven races, including the Eye Opener, Bob Jenkins SCTCCCA Coaches Classic, GTC Tiger Classic, Starlight Reservation Run, Low Country Invitational and Darlington XC Carnival. The series itself is scored when a team and/or individual meets the requirements of entering and competing in one of the seven meets.
In addition to the Greenville County meet, this weekend features Spartanburg County, Greenwood/Abbeville County and Tri County (Clemson) championships. The 5A Upper State qualifier will be held on Oct. 24, while other qualifiers are scheduled for Oct. 27. The SCISA state meet will also take place on Oct. 27 at Heathwood Hall in Columbia.