State Championships: 50 Years of Memories

Fifty years of champions. Fifty years of record-breaking performances. Fifty years of memories.

This year, high school cross country celebrates its 50th season in the state. It will be capped by the South Carolina High School League state championships to be held at the Springdale Racing Facility in Camden. 

Going into this year's state meet, there have been 133 boys and 106 girls teams that have earned titles. There have been 3,585 all-state runners, while over 19,000 boys and 15,000 girls have finished state races.

The state meet began in 1970 (view the results) as a boys-only race. The girls first ran for state championships in 1976 (view the results). In the 49 years the state meet has been in existence, 2,607 boys teams and 2,054 girls teams have competed. The largest number of state finishers were a staggering 1,205 in 2016.

Build virtual meets for races to watch Tuesday

There have been 50 boys and 30 girls teams to win state championships. Riverside's boys 11 straight titles from 1987-97 are the most consecutively, while St. Joseph's girls hold the record with nine from 2010-18. 

Hilton Head's David Adams holds the record with the fastest time at 14:36 in 1999. Spring Valley's Kate Niehaus has the fastest girls time at 17:36 in 2003.

Chris White is the President of the SCTCCCA and head boys and girls track coach at Seneca High School. He ran track in Massachusetts before coming to Seneca. He coached cross country for 19 years and has helped coach eight state track champions, including the boys in 2018.

 White said the 50th edition of the state meet could be the best yet.

"I think times are important to everyone, but when it comes down to it a foot race is a foot race," he said. "Everyone is on the same course in the same conditions on the same day. I think we'll have some really close races in a lot of classifications. I'm excited to watch the competition and see how it goes."

Ed Boehmke coached boys and girls track and cross country coach for 38 years at Eastside High. He won three state championships, was runner-up seven times and multiple region titles. He is in five different hall of fames, as well as the meet director for multiple races across the state.

Boehmke said that the sport has grown and will continue to grow as long as coaches step up and take the reigns.

"The interest is remarkable," he said. "For all the years when I first started, I was happy to have seven girls and 15 boys. In the last 15 years, there are teams of 30 and 40 and 50 and now we've got 100. We're not having a greater runner standing out now as 25 or 30 years ago, but a lot more of them are around the same (times). What I'd like to see going forward is the 1A schools get a full complement of teams to have their own state championship, every team in the state have full boys and girls teams, middle school and elementary school teams and the younger coaches step up and put on big meets."

Wren coach Larry Clark is one of several that have both run and coached in the state meet. He finished as state runner-up as a senior at Crescent High School in 1985 and was third in the previous year. He added a pair of individual state track championships in the 100- and 200-meter dashes before going on to Clemson.

Clark is in his 11th year at Wren and 26th overall with previous stints at T.L. Hanna, Northwestern and Easley. His teams have won a combined seven region championships.

Clark said that present runners are shattering records due to their commitment to the sport.

"We have a different mentality now," he said. "(Runners) are peaking so fast because that's all they do. Athletes now commit more to one sport more than playing two or three. The times we were hitting as freshmen in college they are getting as seniors in high school."

Clark added that faster courses are also a contributing factor to quicker times.

"The courses have changed, too," he said. "They have sought out the ones that are not as challenging and seeking out the fastest courses they can get. It's a speedsters race now instead of speed and stamina."

While runners are seemingly faster in present-day, Clark said it takes commitment to excel as a runner.

"As an athlete, you always want to make your mark in a positive way," he said. "I've learned over the years that perseverance takes you a long way. I wasn't blessed with a lot of talent. It took a lot of hard work."

Bluffton coach Dana House was a former standout at Mauldin from 1982-86. She won the mile and two-mile state track championships as a junior. Her best finish in cross country was fifth at the state meet the same year. She went on to have a standout career at South Carolina where her teams won multiple Metro Conference titles.

House, also a school counselor, is in her 16th year at Bluffton. Two of her boys teams have won state titles in track and field during her tenure.

House said that runners compete due to a love for the sport.

"Running is a life thing, and that's what I love about it so much," she said. "Everybody likes to win, but what I love is you win when you finish."

House said that the "life lessons" she can teach as a counselor and coach are most important.

"I like to make a mark on being in the lives of the kids," she said. "Most of my runners are with me once they start, and I usually have them six years. It's really nice to watch them grow."