Cross-country: The state championships

South Johnston freshman Gonzales finishes sixth in state

cbest@newsobserver.comNovember 4, 2013 

— Jacob Gonzales ran like one of the best cross-country talents in the state Saturday at Beeson Park in Kernersville, and by the end of the NCHSAA 3A state championships that’s exactly what he had become.

Gonzales, a freshman at South Johnston, finished sixth individually in 15 minutes, 52.98 seconds. His run was good enough to earn all-state honors. The top 10 finishers in each race made up the all-state teams.

It was a great finish to a banner first season.

“I wanted to break 16 and I did that and I was just hoping to get in the top 10 and I finished sixth as a freshman, so it was a great day,” Gonzales said. “I know I can do a lot better though. I’m happy but not satisfied.”

Gonzales ran the first half of the race outside the top 25 but as the runners who opened with big efforts started to fade, he methodically passed runner after runner, taking advantage of the pacing work he’d done with veteran South coach Joe Loia and the wide course at Beeson Park.

“He’s going to be a factor in these races for years to come, because he listens and he understands race strategy. I just told him to stick to his race and don’t panic when guys are passing you early.”

Gonzales tried to keep his opening mile at a 5-minute or 5:05 pace, conserving energy for the wooded portion of the course and the hills.

“The first mile was fast but I tried to use the hills to my advantage because we do a lot of hill work and not everybody does that,” Gonzales said.

The 3A boys race was the fastest of the day; state champion Phillip Hall of Fayetteville Terry Sanford broke the course record in 15:07.55. Monroe Weddington won the 3A boys team championship.

Corinth Holders was the only Johnston County school to qualify a team for the state championships and the Pirates – in their first year of 3A competition – finished 13th in a very deep and competitive race.

The Pirates finished with 321 points, a point behind Northwood for 12th and just 10 points out of the top 10.

Arden Vessie led Corinth Holders with her 11th-place finish in 19:00.76, just a spot off of the all-state team.

Cameron Rutherford also finished in the top 75 in 20:45.35 taking 63rd in the state. The rest of the finishing lineup for the Two Rivers 3A Conference champions included Bryanna Sacca (101st in 22:13.91), Taylor Stevens (106th in 22:21.55), Abby Pittman (111th in 22:33.98) and Rachel Strickland (117th in 22:50.42).

Cardinal Gibbons won its fourth straight girls 3A team championship with four runners finishing in the top eight including the top two: Mary Grace Doggett and Sophie Ebihara.

West Johnston junior Kyle Christ finished 13th in a competitive 4A boys cross-country state championship field Saturday at Beeson Park in Kernersville. Christ clocked in at 15 minutes, 55.94 seconds. A fourth of the field finished within a minute of the winner.

West’s Becca Meshaw finished 38th in the state in her final cross-country meet, at 19:17.34.

Broughton’s boys and Green Hope’s girls won the 4A team championships. Winston-Salem Mount Tabor’s Kayla Montgomery (17:29.12) and Charlotte Providence’s Wyatt Maxey (15:17.55) were the individual state champions.

Neuse Charter School qualified its first two runners in school history for the state 1A meet, both freshmen.

Marika Samuelsson was 59th in the girls race with a run of 22:48.41. Maurice Watson timed in at 19:06 in the boys 1A state finals, taking 74th place in the state.

Bishop McGuinness swept the 1A team state championships.

Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest

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