High School Sports

Title contenders

The state's top cross-country runners converge on the Midlands this weekend for the SCHSL championships at Clemson's Sandhills Research Park in Northeast Richland.

Ridge View, ranked No. 1 among Class 4A boys, has high hopes to bring home a state championship. But the Blazers will have have a strong challenge from Lexington, which is ranked No. 2.

Among individuals, keep an eye out for Airport's Megan Stahlberger in the Class 3A girls race and Pelion's Nevada Minard, the defending Class 2A girls champion.

Here's a longer look at the top Midlands teams and athletes who will compete on Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m.

RIDGE VIEW BOYS

David Jennings and Joe Keitt nearly led the Blazers to a state championship in 2008 as sophomores and they look capable of completing the task this year.

The S.C. Track and Cross Country Coaches Association has Ridge View ranked No. 1 mostly because Jennings is the No. 4-ranked boys runner in the state while Keitt is No. 6.

Stratford, a Class 4A team, is the only other school that has two runners in the top 10 of the individual rankings, which include all classificiations.

Last season, Jennings placed fifth at the Class 4A state meet while Keitt came in No. 10

At last weekend's Class 4A qualifying meet, Keitt and Jennings placed first and second.

LEXINGTON BOYS AND GIRLS

The Lexington boys have improved dramatically since last season, when they placed No. 17 at the Class 4A state meet.

Their No. 2 ranking in the coaches poll means they've impressed plenty of people while winning the Region 5-4A championship.

Drew Harris is Lexington's top runner. The senior is No. 10 in the coaches' individual rankings. At last weekend's qualifying meet, he placed third behind Keitt and Jennings.

Lexington also counts on strong performances from senior Will Belue, junior Jay Lloyd and freshman Blake White, who all placed in the top 20 at the qualifying meet.

The top runner for the Wildcats' girls team is seventh-grader Haylee Love, who is No. 6 in the coaches' rankings. She prepared well for her first state meet by winning Saturday's qualifying meet with a time of 19:17.76. Lexington, in Hall of Fame coach Catherine Lempesis' first season at the school, is ranked No. 7 in the Class 4A poll.

PELION GIRLS AND BOYS

Pelion pushed into the top five at last season's Class 2A-A girls meet, finishing third with 109 points behind champion Christ Church (78) and Landrum (101).

Nevada Minard, an eighth-grader at the time, spurred the rise with her first-place finish.

This season, Pelion carries the No. 3 ranking into the state meet, trailing Landrum and Christ Church in the coaches' eyes.

Minard, who ran 19:49 in her championship performance, placed third at last Saturday's Class 2A Lower State qualifying meet with a time of 20:50.72.

The Panthers, though, placed first in the team standings. Pelion senior Alexandria Kyzer placed fifth, freshman Patricia Garcia was 11th and sophomore Morgan Payne finished 19th.

All will need even better performances Saturday if the Panthers are to grab the top prize.

The Panthers boys team placed second at the Lower State qualifier, led by freshman Zack Tharp's ninth-place finish. The Panthers are ranked No. 5 in the coaches poll.

AIRPORT BOYS AND GIRLS

Stahlberger placed No. 15 in the Class 3A state meet with a time of 19:58.99 last season and has improved her performance as a freshman.

At last Saturday's Class 3A Lower State qualifier, Stahlberger placed second to Hilton Head's Sara Manesiotis with a time of 19:14.66.

On the boys side, the Eagles have a good chance to build on their 10th place finish at last year's state meet.

Seniors Jamie Sires and Joshua Williams were individual qualifers thanks to strong running at the qualifying meet. Sires was third at Lower State with a time of 16:47, while Williams was eighth in 17:50.16.

Sires looks to cap a standout career with another top finish. He is a two-time, all-state runner, placing 15th as a sophomore in 2007 and ninth last season.

DUTCH FORK GIRLS

Samantha Hughes is expected to have a top finish for the Silver Foxes, who placed No 5 in Class 4A last season.

Hughes carries the No. 10 ranking among individual runners after placing 20th at the Class 4A state meet in 2008 as a junior with a time of19:58.74.

Hughes was second to Love at the 4A qualifying meet, finishing with a time of 19:23. 76.

Michelle Arms, No 19 in the state in 2008, was third at the qualifying meet. If freshman Ameila Syfert and Haley Saxby, who placed 14th and 15th at the qualifying meet, can move up this Saturday, the Silver Foxes will be in position for another top-five finish.

CHAPIN BOYS AND GIRLS

Chapin seeks to have top-10 performances by its boys and girls runners for the second consecutive season.

The Eagles boys and girls teams prepped well for the state meet with sixth-place finishes at last weekend's Upper State qualifying meet at Heritage Park in Simpsonville.

Heath Lorick (17th, 17:21.02), Carson Barnes (22nd, 17:30.33) and Hunter McGahee (24th, 17:30.83) were the leaders for the Chapin boys, who are ranked seventh in the coaches poll..

Lannon McCoy (9th, 19:53.17) and Julia Von Vollenho (20th, 20:38.66) led the way the for the Eagles girls, who stand at No. 8 in the 3A rankings. Individually, McCoy will be out to gain a spot on the all-state team for the first time after placing 17th as a freshman last season and 20th as an eighth-grader in 2007.

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