Four Midlands cross country teams had their rankings stock take a big jump at the annual Coaches Classic Invitational on Saturday at Sandhills Research Park.
The two biggest gains were posted by the Ridge View and Spring Valley boys teams. The Blazers and Vikings both entered the early-season proving ground unranked in the Class 4A poll that was released three days before the race. That could change when the new numbers are leased on Sept. 23.
The Dutch Fork and Dreher girls teams also performed well enough to have voters reassess their current standing.
Ridge View made its case for a Top 5 slot, not merely a place in the polls, with an impressive showing. The Blazers finished fourth in the elite International Division race. No. 1 Wando. No. 7 Fort Mill and No. 3 Summerville were the only teams that topped the Ridge View performance. Wando, the defending state champs, was the division winner, followed by Fort Mill and Summerville.
The Blazers closed with 182 points, nine behind Summerville, in the 23-team International field. Sophomore David Jennings was the RV individual star, finishing second behind Dorman junior Brandon Easler. Jennings clocked in a 16 minutes, 14 seconds, seven seconds behind Easler’s winning time.
Jennings had solid support from senior Nick Gladden (18th, 17:24), sophomores Jay Lynch (33rd, 17:41) and Joseph Keitt (37th, 17:44) and senior Bill Waldrop (19:28).
Perhaps the biggest local surprise of the day was Spring Valley, which entered the Championship Division for the first time. The Vikings turned in an International Division performance, placing third behind Class 3A powers Hilton Head and Wade Hampton (Greenville) with 144 points. SV had combined seven-runner time of 17:50, which certainly should afford the rebuilding Vikings Top 10 consideration when the next poll is released.
Vikings coach John Jones, dismayed last month at the lack of experience on hand and an inconsistent training approach by his runners during the summer, has been keeping his team in low-profile mode during the early season, but Spring Valley’s under-the-radar days are now over.
Senior Ryan Moran led the Spring Valley effort on its home course, finishing 13th in 17:20, nipping sophomore teammate William Ivey by one place and one second. The tight Vikings scoring pack also featured senior Jonathan Hanson (28th, 17:53), junior Matt Johnson (38th, 18:07) and junior Zach Parker (55th, 18:33).
The Dutch Fork girls team, unlike the RV and SV boys, was a Top 10 team entering the Coaches Classic, but Silver Foxes figure to move up in the next poll in the wake of a solid, fourth-place showing in the International Division. DF entered the meet ranked No. 7 in 4A. The Coaches Classic results underscored the wide-open nature of the girls big-school state championship race this season.
Junior Samantha Hughes and senior Niki Klasnic paced the Dutch Fork performance. Hughes finished 9th with a time of 20:12, while Klasnic clocked in at 20:41 and placed 13th. Junior Michelle Arms (30th, 21:19) and eighth-graders Hannah Martin (33rd, 21:30) and Amelia Syfert (79th, 23:41) provided solid support for the frontrunners.
The Dreher girls team, like the Ridge View and Spring Valley boys, did not have a spot in the Class 3A poll prior to the Coaches Classic. The Blue Devils, however, made their case for a Top 10 spot by finishing 10th in the Championship Division. Only eight other 3A entries in either division had better a better overall combined time than the Blue Devils.
Sophomore Allyson Hill led the way for Dreher, finishing 14th with a time of 20:51. Freshman Karina Colon (30th, 20:50) and seventh-grader Ashbrook Gwinn (31st, 21:50) had outstanding runs, as well. Juniors Ana Suarez (24:23) and Melissa Bloom (24:26) were the other scoring runners.
The big story in Class 3A was Hilton Head, which swept the Championship Division titles. The Seahawks boys, ranked sixth entering the meet, made a case for No. 1 billing with a slightly better overall performance than top-ranked Wade Hampton, which finished second behind Fort Mill in the International Division. The HH girls, ranked No. 10, are in for a big jump in the polls after turning in the best showing of all 3A entries, save for defending champion Daniel which won the International Division.
In Class 2A, Christ Church beat top-ranked, defending state champion Bishop England. The second-ranked Cavaliers finished fifth in the Championship Division, one spot ahead of the Bishops. Conversely, the BE boys may have turned the tables on No. 1 Pendleton. The Bishops boys finished seventh in the International Division, while the Bulldogs were fifth in the Championship gathering. BE had a slight advantage in combined team time.
Three other unranked teams made cases for Top 10 billing at the Coaches Classic, including the Stratford boys in 4A, the first-year Ashley Ridge boys in 2A and the Bluffton boys in 3A.