Pelion’s cross country teams passed the first major test of the season with flying colors on Saturday at Sandhills research Center.
The Panthers girls team, a Top 5 team at state four times in the past five years, confirmed its current SCTCCCA No. 2 ranking in Class 2A by finishing ninth in the mixed classification Championship Division race at the annual Coach Classic gathering.
Freshman Nevada Minard, the defending individual 2A state champion and a two-time all-state runner, led the way with a 14th place finish and a time of 20:39. It was the fifth-best time by a 2A-1A runner in both divisions. Senior Alexandria Kyzer (58th, 22:15), freshman Patricia Garcia (62nd, 22:26), sophomore Morgan Payne (86th, 22:54) and senior Anna Garcia (91st, 23:01) were Pelion’s other scoring runners.
Minard, Kyzer, Garcia and Walker were in the state starting lineup last season when the Panthers finished third behind Christ Church and Landrum.
A year ago, the boys team missed the Top 10 cut at state for the first time since 1999. Saturday’s showing indicates the Panthers are poised for a return. Pelion, unranked in the first two 2A polls of the season, finished 17th in the Championship Division standings at the Coaches Classic. One could make the case that the Panthers had the fifth best showing among all the 2A entries. In fact, Pelion finished higher that sixth-ranked Ashley Ridge, No. 8 Pendleton and No. 10 Palmetto.
Senior Zane Tharp set the pace, finishing 34th in 17:52. Juniors James Flake (74th, 18:40) and Brandon Earwood (91st, 18:58) and seniors Jake Walker (97th, 19:02) and Craig Bennett (20:03) fell in behind Tharp.