Regionals in one word…”fast”, in two words..”really fast”. That is the only way to sum up the 1A West Regionals for XC on Saturday, Oct. 28th where your Swain County Maroon Devils won both the men’s and women’s Regional titles. Coach Keith Payne said of the victories, “It has been a goal of our team all year to win both of these titles. And to do it in the dominating fashion that we did speaks volumes about our athletes determination and grit.”
The girl’s went first this year, to help out a fellow SMC team who had a round 4 Volleyball game to get to in Polk County. The girls were fast. 6 of our 7 runners either ran a personal record, PR, or ran a season best time. Through the first mile, the girls were all grouped in the top 15 and they all looked smooth. When they came back into view, it was clear who the team winner would be as Annie Lewis, 3rd overall, was once again our number one runner with a PR run of 18:46. It was her first time under 19 and she looked so smooth at the end. Closely behind her was Angel Lomelli with another PR performance of 19:14 and a 5th place overall finish. Behind her was Freshman Emily Gray Stargell, with an amazing freshman time of 19:42 and 9th place overall finish. 4th on the team and 16th overall was Captain Lily Bjerkness, with a PR time of 20:15 and right behind her was Audrey Monteith, 19th overall, and a new PR for her at 20:28. Lilah Foster finished 30th with a time of 21:30 and Marden Harvey ran a 21:58, a huge season best, and finished 34th overall.
It was a dominating performance as they won by 38 points over the best region in the state. “It doesn’t end here,” Lily Bjerkness said. “Our goal is to win State. Regionals is nice, but State is the goal.” The rest of the team is in agreement with Lily. “The course was really fast today”, Coach Payne said. “There was a time I was thinking they cut the course somewhere, but then when you put the best teams in the state in one region, the cream rises to the top.”
The boys started shortly after, and they lived up to the hype built around them. “We are running without our number 2 or sometimes 3 runner today. He has a rather significant ankly injury and we don’t want to risk further injury,” Coach Payne said. “But I had confidence in his replacement, freshman Derek Gunter.” So, the boys toed the line with the largest regional race in over 15 years and one mile in, it appeared that the boys would live up to the expectations as they were packed tightly together. As they came down the stretch, the boys were every bit as fast as the girls. Carl Baird continued his remarkable sophomore year with a 5th place finish, and a new PR of 16:12. Senior Kane Jones also set a new PR with a time of 16:38 and a 7th place finish. Senior Connor Lambert ran the race of his life knowing he had to step up in place of the injured Connor Brown, and ran a huge PR time of 17:01 and a 13th place finish. Abhi Patel also ran a new PR time of 17:07 placing 16th, and Ross Clapsaddle ran a new PR of 18:00 finishing 34th overall. Derek Gunter, in his first championship race, ran a PR time of 18:12 finishing 41st and Cory Wolf rounded out the team with a PR time of 18:25 finishing 48th. Freshman Ross Clapsaddle said of the race, “I think I did very well considering I am coming off of an injury. There were some things I can correct to make sure that I execute my race perfectly come Saturday (State meet).
The boys won by 42 points, against 8 of the top 12 teams in the state. “I am very proud and excited for this group of seniors. I have been with them since their 8th grade year. We built this program together and to finally see things coming together for them, it makes my heart happy,” Coach Payne said of the boys performance.
The NCHSAA recoginizes the top 10 individuals as All-Regionals. Swain had 5…Annie Lewis, Angel Lomelli, Emily Gray Stargell, Carl Baird, and Kane Jones.
The NCHSAA State Championships are this Saturday at Kernersville. Both Swain teams are ranked first going into the meet. There will be a send off in town around 9:45 am on Friday. Please come out and show your support.