Bailey Harris thought he might have the third-best team at the state Class 4A boys cross country meet Saturday.
He was wrong.
Three Wildcats turned in all-state performances, and Lexington captured the school's first team cross country state championship.
Drew Harris, Bailey's son, placed fifth, while Colby Coulter finished ninth and Will Belue 10th to lead the Wildcats. In addition, Jay Lloyd placed 23rd and freshman Blake White was 31st to help Lexington easily beat top-ranked Ridge View.
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One year after finishing a disappointing 17th at the state meet, Lexington returned to the same course at Sand Hills Research Center to redeem itself.
Bailey Harris, who led Lexington to Class 4A boys basketball state championships in 1996 and 2000, talked Monday about his cross country team's surprising win.
Did you think your team was going to win it all?
"I really was wanting to crack the top three. I know we were ranked No. 2, but we were No. 4 all year with Ridge View, Dorman and Fort Mill. I felt like we had the best chance to get Fort Mill of anyone. We hadn't beaten Ridge View all year. I didn't feel like we were going to catch Ridge View or Dorman.
"With our top three guys (Harris, Coulter and Belue), I thought if we could get one of these guys to the top 10, two and three in (the) top 20 and four and five in the top 30 or 40, that would be a good day for us. I thought if we did that, then let's see where it goes from there. I don't think Dorman ran its best. Ridge View ran pretty good. We put it all together.
"Drew finishing fifth was quite a boost. Then Colby and Will came in, giving us three in the top 10. I was feeling good about them. I saw Jay Lloyd come in just outside of the top 20. I'm just sitting on that hill (overlooking the finish line at Sandhills) thinking we've got a chance. Then I saw Blake White, when he comes over that hill around the top 30, and I knew we had a good chance.
"I'm used to basketball, when the horn sounds and you know who has won and who has lost. It was a good 30 minutes before it was over before I knew we won. It was pretty exciting."
What did the team do in the offseason to improve so much?
"They really didn't win the state championship Saturday. They won it along time ago. Back in spring in track, we had a good season and had younger ones that tried to develop. Over the summer, (assistant coach) Mike Wendt and I would just meet at different times and places. We'd have different groups run different times. We are not 100 percent together in summer, but we are on the same page.
"Before the season, I have a house on the Edisto River. We'd go down to the house and run triathalons, do some kayaking and set goals. This group, from the beginning, had high goals. We got together on Saturdays without meets and had a tough workout. A lot of times we'd go to Harbison and run on those tough trails.
"This is really a team. They were like that all year. They remind me of state championship basketball teams. They were locked in and focused on what they wanted to do."
"We had 27 kids run under 20 minutes, 18 kids under 19 minutes. We had a lot of depth. They kept pushing each other in practice."
Is it safe to say that they feel their hard work paid off?
"Any time you work that hard and sacrifice that much, you've got to see the rewards. We were fortunate. The flu hit some teams this year. Injuries wiped people out. We had some of that stuff, but we were fortunate that we were running our best at the end of the year. We had two six-year lettermen senior captains. They were driven to make up for last year's state meet when we really bombed it."
How did your team come so far from last year?
"We did and we didn't. We were not the 17th-best team in the state last year. We were a good team. We had a horrible state meet. I don't blame the kids on that one. They weren't out partying or anything. It was a change in schedule where there was a two-week layoff before the state meet. We did not, as coaches, do a good job with the training schedule. This year we rearranged (the) training schedule and tried to make sure we were running our best at the state. I think it really paid off."