Even as his team was being photographed hoisting the championship trophy, Lexington boys cross country coach Bailey Harris could not quite believe what had transpired Saturday at Sandhills Research Park.
The Wildcats secured their first state title, boys or girls, by blowing away top-ranked Ridge View by an astonishingly easy 69-120 margin at the Class 4A state meet
"I'm shocked, absolutely shocked," said Harris, who has guided Lexington to two boys basketball state championships during his 23-year career at the school.
"Coming over here, I really though finishing third would be tremendous, an outstanding way to end a good season. We've (been) pretty consistent all season, but these guys just gelled as a team over the past few weeks. They ran relaxed and with a lot of confidence today. But I still can't quite believe it turned out the way it did."
It sure beats the showing the Wildcats turned in at state last season, when essentially the same team finished next-to-last.
"We couldn't have run worse than if we stayed up all night and jogged over here," Harris said.
"And we couldn't have run any better than we did today. That's the way it is in this sport. Nothing matters - not rankings, not previous times - except how you run the day of the big race. I'm really happy for our seniors because they redeemed themselves today."
One of those seniors is Harris' son Drew, who had the worst race of his life at state last season.
"The big difference this year was the coaches had us train differently leading up to state," said the younger Harris, who paced the Wildcats with a fifth-place finish after taking 133rd in a field of 140 runners a year ago.
Teammates Colby Coulter (ninth) and Will Belue (10th) joined Harris on the all-state team.
"Drew is my son, and Will is my other son," said Harris, the coach.
"They've been running together on the team since seventh grade and have been playing together in sports since they were six years old. To see them both go out as seniors as state champions and as all-state runners is really something."
Ridge View, which was third at the state meet last season with a sophomore-dominated team, was ranked No. 1 in Class 4A for much of the season, but the Blazers still are seeking that elusive first state title.
"After what I saw last week, I really thought Lexington was the team to beat coming into the meet," Blazers coach Brian Rosefield said.
"They had their best times ever on this course at the qualifying meet, and I'm sure they blew those out of the water today. Sure, we're disappointed, because we came here to win. But it wasn't like we ran a bad race today. Lexington just ran a great race and we couldn't match it."
Blazer juniors Joe Keitt and David Jennings did their parts, earning all-state honors for the second year in a row. Keitt was second to Fort Mill's Mark Blackmon, who became the second 4A runner to win three consecutive individual titles. Jennings finished eighth.
Wando was an easy winner over Dorman in the girls division, ending a 33-year title drought. The Warriors were the winners at the inaugural, open-classification girls race in 1976.
Stratford junior Jasmine Polite was the individual winner.