A.C. Flora’s Susannah Cate was the Midlands girls cross country headliner Saturday at the annual state championships at Sandhills Research Center.
Cate, a sophomore, became the third individual state champion in program history, winning the Class 3A title with a time of 18 minutes, 30 seconds, and by a comfortable margin of 16 seconds over runner-up Elizabeth Dawson of Daniel.
“Susannah had to overcome an injury in the last few weeks of the season, but she’s a mentally tough athlete and it was fun to watch her progress leading up to state,” Flora coach Thomas Sunday said.
“She ran a 19:04 last week at the qualifier, and I thought an 18:30 was doable this week. Susannah knows her strengths and weaknesses, and I really believed that this was her race to lose. I told her to run like a champion, and she did.”
Cate placed 74th at state as a seventh-grade rookie, moved up to 26th in 2011 and made it to sixth last season.
“I thought I had a shot, but I didn’t know if it was going to happen,” Cate said. “It was a pretty scary race for a while because there was a little pack of us running very close together for a while.”
But once the lead group hit the big hill well into the course, Cate took charge.
“Running hills is one of my strengths, so I wanted to be close enough to make a move when we got to it,” she said.
Cate was third coming out of the woods and rounding the lake house before hitting the steep incline where she made her move.
“I passed one girl at the base of the hill and took the lead about halfway up,” she said. “Then I was able to pull away in the last mile.”
Cate’s winning performance helped the Falcons finish in seventh place.
The top Midlands team performances were third-place finishes by Pelion (2A) and Chapin (3A).
Antoinette Fulton (2nd), Paige Driggers (5th) and Miyonta Mavins (13th) nearly led Pelion to a team title in a close race. The Panthers scored 59 points to finish third behind defending champion Landrum (56) and pre-race favorite Bishop England (57). It was the lowest state points total in program history, topping the state championship winning score of 69 points in 2001.
Chapin’s 138 points netted a second consecutive third-place finish. Alexa Golbus (15th) led the Eagles with an all-state run.
Three Midlands entries cracked the top 10 in Class 4A. Irmo’s Lauren Henderson passed Dutch Fork’s Anna Johnson at the finish line for third place, and Spring Valley’s Claudia Cannon was eighth.
In team matters, Dutch Fork placed fifth, Spring Valley sixth and Irmo ninth.