Hilton Head struck a blow for the Lower State at the Class 3A cross country state championship meet Saturday at Sandhills Research Park.
The Seahawks became the first team from below the Fall Line to sweep both championships in a classification that has been dominated by Upper State teams. In fact, the Upstate's grip on top honors was not loosened until Bluffton's boys claimed back-to-back titles in 2005-06.
Hilton Head's performance Saturday made a case that parity, at long last, might be at hand in Class 3A cross country.
The Seahawks girls bagged their second consecutive championship with a 52-58 advantage over top-ranked and pre-race favorite Daniel. The Hilton Head boys followed with a surprisingly easy 41-69 win over traditional Upstate power Wade Hampton of Greenville.
"We knew Daniel had some lights-out times at the qualifying meet and that the only way we'd even have a chance was to run our best race of the year," Seahawks coach Bill Wrightson said.
"The boys actually came into the meet with a lot more motivation because they were disappointed by finishing second last year. I was concerned today because we've had to deal with a lot of injuries this season, and our training suffered because of that. But the guys certainly rose to the challenge."
Did the thought of a sweep cross Wightson's mind?
"Oh, I felt we might have a chance, but I can't say I expected it," he said.
"It's a tremendous accomplishment and a testimony to all the hard work these kids have put into making this a top program."
Individually, Woodmont senior Aaron Ramirez claimed his second consecutive gold medal, and Daniel senior Sinead Haughey returned to the throne she vacated a year ago to Seneca's Tameka Jackson after winning as a sophomore in 2007.
"I generally don't get nervous for races, but I did today," Ramirez said.
"I felt like I had a target on my back, and a couple of guys really hunted me down. Fortunately, I was able to get the second one, and it's a great feeling."
Hilton's Head's Jack Manesiotis and Jack Felix hounded Ramirez before fading late.
Haughey, who was diagnosed a few weeks ago with anemia, was back in top form after being understandably listless for much of the season.
"It's been a lot better since I started taking iron pills," Haughey said.
"My plan today was to go out with everything I had at the start and try to break her (Jackson). This one means so much more because I had to work a lot harder to get it."