Pelion’s girls and boys cross country teams headline a seven-team Midlands contingent at Saturday’s Class 2A state championship meet at Sandhills Research Park.
The Panthers girls finished in first place and the boys placed second at last weekend’s Lower State qualifying meet on the state course.
Gilberts boys and girls teams, the Batesburg-Leesville Eau Claire boys and the Mid-Carolina girls all made the state cut at the Upper State qualifying affair
Pelion’s third-ranked girls team edge Bishop England 57-69 for the Lower State team championship last week behind the lead of freshman Nevada Minard and senior Alexandria Kyzer.
Minard, the reigning 2A individual champion, was third at the LA qualifier with a time of 20:50.72, and Kyzer was fifth at 21:36.58. The frontrunners had solid support from freshman Patricia Kyzer (11th, 22:12.78), sophomore Morgan Payne (19th, 22:58.26) and senior Anna Garcia (28th, 23:28.67).
Last year, the Panthers finish in third place in the final team standings behind Christ Church and Landrum. This time, Landrum is ranked ahead of defending champion Christ Church. Pelion has been a Top 5 team at state 12 times since the debut of the Class 2A-1A classification in 1995.
At the very least, Minard is shooting for her third straight Top 5 finish. She placed fourth as a seventh-grader in 2007 before ascending the throne a year ago.
The sixth-ranked Pelion boys are on a mission to return to the Top 10 at the state finals after failing to make the grade a year ago for the first time since the start of the 2A classification in 1995.
The Panthers tuned up for the quest with a solid showing at the Lower State qualifier – placing second behind Bishop England. Senior Shane Tharp led the way by finishing ninth with a time of 18:18.47. Junior James Flake (12th, 18:26.53), seniors Craig Bennett (15th, 18:45.10) and Jake Walker (16th, 18:48.16) and eighth-grader Aubrey Hite (25th, 19:16.28) rounded out the fine team performance.
Gilbert is sending both varsity teams to state for eighth year in a row. The goal for the two unranked teams is to crack the Top 10 at the season finale. The Indians boys team has been a Top 10 finisher every year since winning the school’s first cross country title in 2004.
Senior Brian Provost (12th, 17:52.87) and eighth-grader Trevor Black (31st, 18:43.93) led the Indians to a ninth-place finish at the Upper State gathering at Heritage Park in Simpsonville.
Sophomore Brooke Craft (32nd, 22:29.52) and eighth-grader Ashton Fraley (48th, 23:11.18) paced the Indians to a 10th place finish in the girls race.
Mid-Carolina’s girls finished eighth to make the state meet cut for the third year in a row and the fourth time in program history. Senior Maria Pascual (23rd, 21:57.88) and sophomore Rebekah Odum (24th, 22:00.25) were the M-C frontrunners.
Batesburg-Leesville’s boys made the state grade for the sixth straight year, thanks to last week’s 10th place Upper State finish. The Panthers had their best-ever state showing a year ago when they finished 13th with 324 points – just six behind 10th place Ashley Ridge.
Senior James Coleman led the B-L pack at the qualifier, placing 22nd in 18:16.77.
Freshman Omar Shariff (34th, 18:46.74) was the pace setter for Eau Claire, which made the cut for the second year in a row. It’s been 17 years since the Shamrocks last made consecutive state meet appearances, dating back to a three-year run between 1990 and 1992.