In its first significant outing under Hall of Fame coach Catherine Lempesis, the unranked Lexington girls cross country team emerged as the winner at Wednesday’s Lexington County championship meet.
Lempesis, who was induced into the National Federation of State High School Association’s national Hall of Fame this year, had a stellar career at Spring Valley before moving over to Ridge View when the third Richland 2 school opened in the mid 1990s.
The new-look Wildcats finished with a 57-63 edge in the final standings over defending champion Dutch Fork, which placed fifth at the Class 4A state finals a year ago and is No. 7 in the early SCTCCCA big school division rankings. Significantly, the Wildcats county meet lineup featured only two scoring runners from the crew that produced a 16th place finish at last year’s state finals.
Lexington’s winning performance was a classic “pack” performance. No Wildcat entries made the all-county team, but the top five LHS runners all cross the finish line in a span of just 37 seconds. Haylee Love was the nominal leader, finishing ninth in 21:09. She was followed closely by Meri Heneage (10th, 21:11), Beka Rush (11th, 21:38), Rochelle Kellis (12th, 21:42) and Val Feliciano (15th, 21:46).
Heneage and Rush are the returning veterans, and both posted better times than they did at the end of last season.
Though Dutch Fork failed to defend its county team title, Samantha Hughes was the individual championship for the second year in a row. The Silver Foxes senior star, who had a disappointing state run last year (placing 20th), won with a national elite time of 19:21. Irmo’s Savannah Radenbaugh (19:24) and Dutch Fork’s Michelle Arms (19:39) also turned in national elite times.
Airport’s Megan Stahlberger (4th, 19:39), Chapin’s Lannon McCoy (5th, 20:23), Irmo’s Mary Hutchinson (6th, 20:23) and Pelion’s Nevada Minard (7th, 20:45) were the other runners to earn all-county status.