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KERNERSVILLE — Area schools gave a solid accounting of themselves during the morning session of the NCHSAA state cross country championships held at Ivey Redmon Complex on Saturday.

Abigail Hemric of North Stokes repeated as individual state champ in the girls Class 1-A race. Bishop McGuinness finished as the state runner-up in the team standings for Class 1-A boys. In the four morning races, six area athletes posted top-10 finishes to earn All-State honors.

Winning back-to-back state titles did not come easily for Hemric, a senior who will run at Catawba next year. Sophomore Lauren Tolbert of Gastonia Highland Tech ran shoulder-to-shoulder with the defending champ until the late stages of the race.

With 1,200 meters to go, Hemric revved up the pace to take the lead. Hemric edged ahead by 12 meters and finished in 19:19.17. Tolbert, an 800-meter specialist in track, was second at 19:21.61, and Hannah Oliver of Elkin (19:47.48) was fourth. 

“When we got to the final turn, I tried to sprint the rest of the way,” said Hemric. “But even after I took the lead, I thought she was right behind me the whole time. This was the most challenging race of my career. The tough competition is exactly what I expected.”

Research Triangle scored 67 points to win the team title.

In the Class 1-A boys race, Lincoln Charter dominated the team competition with 42 points. Individually, Aaron Rovnak of Franklin County won handily in 16:05.97 over Drew Zink of Lincoln Charter, who clocked 16:30.27.

In the chase for the team championship trophy, Lincoln Charter placed seven runners among the top 33 finishers. Bishop McGuinness, which scored 82 points, got stellar performances from Jose Hernandez, Scott Craven and C.J. Pacholke; all three posted the fastest times of their careers. Hernandez finished fourth, and Dominic Zecca placed 10th.

“Everybody showed up today,” said Coach Chris Scola of Bishop McGuinness. “That’s why we did so well. This was more than I expected. I’m really proud of this group.”

In Class 3-A boys, Jacob Gallant of Mount Tabor turned in the top performance among area runners. Gallant clocked 16:04.22 to place third. Avery Cannon (15:39) of Watauga won by a comfortable margin, and Jake Toomey (15:51.98) of Matthews Weddington was second.

“I’m slightly disappointed,” said Gallant, this year’s Midwest Regional runner-up. “The goal I had in mind was to win it. But I’m satisfied that I was able to keep on pushing and hold off the other runners. This just gives me more motivation for the indoor and outdoor (track) seasons.”

Chapel Hill and Weddington proved to the class of the 3-A boys field. In a hotly-contested battle for team title, Chapel Hill won the trophy with 61 points. Weddington was the runner-up with 77.

Joanna Strange of North Iredell held off all challengers to win the 3-A girls competition in 17:57.85. In her final cross country race for Mount Tabor, senior Frances Whitworth finished fourth at 18:16.07.

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