Pelion closed out another successful cross country season at the annual Class 2A state championship meet on Nov. 8 when the Panthers girls squad finished in third place behind Christ Church and Landrum.
It was the 13th time in 14 years since the debut of the 2A classification in 1995 that the Pelion girls made the Top 10 cut at the state finals.
Moreover, eighth-grader Nevada Minard became Pelion’s second individual state champion. Dana Willard won four straight solo titles (1999-2002) before transferring away and winning two more while running at Swansea.
With all seven starters expected to return next season, the Pelion girls figure to have a great shot at winning their first state championship since 2001. Junior Alexandra Kyzer joined Minard on the all-state team thanks to a 12th-place finish at state with a time of 21 minutes, 3 seconds. Eighth-graders Patricia Garcia (28th, 21:54) and Kristin Rawl (30th, 21:59) and junior Anna Garcia (38th, 22:14) rounded out the Pelion scoring lineup at stats.
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Prior to the season finale, the Panthers girls finished second to Bishop England at the Lower State qualifier and won the Region 5-2A title in their first season in their new home. Minard was the individual winner in both of those races. Kyzar finished second at the region meet, fourth at Lower State.
The Pelion boys team did not fare as well as the girls. The Panthers boys failed to finish in the Top 10 at state for the first time since 1999 and for only the second time since the 2A classification became a permanent fixture on the harrier scene in 1992.
The good news is that with just one senior departing from the starting lineup at state, the Panthers have a chance to move up in 2009. In fact, the five scoring runners at state are expected to return – Jake Walker (24th, 18:05), Brandon Earwood (64th, 19:02), Aubrey Hite (78th, 19:25), Zane Tharp (80th, 19:27) and Jared Corley (80th, 19:40).
The Panthers finished second to Wade Hampton at the Region 5-2A championship meet, and might well be considered the favorite next season with the Red Devils losing four senior starters.