Eight-grader Nevada Minard took individual honors while leading the third-ranked Pelion girls cross country team to a second-place finish at the Class 2A Lower State qualifying meet at Sandhills Research Park.
Minard, who was fourth at state last year as a rookie, had winning time of 20 minutes, 29.41 and had a comfortable winning margin of more than 22 seconds over runner-up Megan Weisen of Aynor. The Panthers star youngster is considered a prime contender for medallist honors at the state finals on Saturday at Sandhills along with Caroline Jennings and Victoria Barthelme of top-ranked Christ Church and Halie Whitten of Palmetto. Defending champion Jeanne Stroud was 20th at the Lower State meet.
The Panthers have designs on winning the team championship as well, but have some ground to make up against both Christ Church and Bishop England. CC blew away the competition while winning the Upper State title with a team score of 31 points. Bishop England’s winning score in the Lower State was 54 points, 14 less than Pelion.
Junior Alexandria Kyzer had a strong race behind the lead of Minard, finishing 4th in 21:11.18. Eighth-graders Patricia Garcia (17th, 22:27.77) and Kristin Rawl (22nd, 22:58.59) and junior Anna Garcia (25th, 23:06.06) closed out the Panthers scoring.
The Pelion boys, meanwhile, were also second behind Bishop England with junior Jake Walker (7th, 18:00.09) leading the way. The Panthers, who were 10th at state last season, are looking to extend their streak of Top 10 state finishes to nine years in a row.
Walker’s backing at the qualifier came from sophomore Brandon Earwood (21st, 18:58.77), junior Zane Tharp (22nd, 18:59.34), seventh-grader Aubrey Hite (24th, 19:04.54) and junior Craig Bennett (25th, 19:11.04).
Walker expects to contend for an all-state finish at state after placing 32nd a year ago.