Many sports have been limited due to COVID-19. Cross Country is no exception as the Leesville team scrambles to make it through the postseason. (Photo Used By Permission of Anne Longrie)
Every year, the best high school cross country teams and athletes from across North Carolina come together for one last race known as the state championship. However, due to COVID-19, there were several changes to what teams needed to do in order to make it to the state championship.
In prior years, the regional championships were the ticket to states. Teams that placed in the top five of their region would advance to the state championship. However, this year it was a little bit different.
Due to COVID-19, teams had to do well in two races in order to make it to states. The first was the conference championship. In prior years, conferences did not hold much value–outside of a trophy or some plaques–for doing well in the race because everyone would advance to regionals anyways.
However, this year only the top half of the teams in each conference would advance to the regional championship.
For Leesville, this created a bit of a controversy. Leesville is in the Cap-7 conference that has seven of the toughest teams in the state.
Leesville fought hard, and the girls placed third while the boys placed fourth, which should have allowed them to advance to regionals. However, one of the teams did not show up to the race, so the question was whether to allow four teams to advance like previously stated or limit it to three teams since only six raced and half of six is three.
Luckily for Leesville, the organizers allowed four teams to advance.
The next barrier for Leesville on their way to the state championship was the regional championship. Only three teams were supposed to make it out of the regional championship and it was going to be brutal.
The main threats that stood in Leesville’s way were Millbrook (for the boys), Gibbons, Sanderson (for the girls), Hoggard, Ashley (for the boys), Laney (for the girls) and Broughton.
Millbrook’s boys had an amazing team and were expected to win the state championship the following week, however, their girls did not even make it to the regional championship.
Gibbons boys had a great team riding off Wesley Haws, their number 1 runner who was a top 2 runner in the state, and followed him with a string of great runners. Their girls team was also extremely good and had won 9 out of the 10 previous state championships.
Sanderson’s girls team was very close to Leesville where Leesville squeaked out a third place over them in the conference championship. On the other hand, their boy’s were not as good and did not make it to the regional championship.
Hoggard is a coastal school, and their boys were just as good as Millbrook with an extremely tight pack of runners that could all run in the low 16:00 range. They followed this up with a great girls team that was one of the favorites to win the state championships.
Ashley was another coastal school with a decent boy’s team, but not much of a girl’s team. The boys were seeded higher than Leesville’s boys, but Leesville was confident they would beat Ashley.
Laney was the last coastal school that threatened Leesville, with a great girls team. However, their boys team did not hold up as well.
And finally Broughton. Broughton is Leesville’s rival and although Broughton’s boys had beaten Leesville’s boys at their duel meet and the conference championship, Leesville wanted to get their revenge and smother them in the regional championship. Broughton had an even better girls team that ended up winning the conference championship, so the Leesville girls had a lot of work to do.
The race was brutal. There had been heavy and consistent rain for several days leading up to the regional championship, leaving the entire course covered in a thick, deep mud. On top of the mud and other obstacles, there was also a knee-deep puddle that runners had to run through twice during the race. With every step, runners’ feet would sink into the mud, and it took a lot of effort to pull them out. The course was supposedly one of the fastest courses in the state (meaning it was flat and easy to run a good time on), but the amount of mud and puddles littered around from the rain made each runner run about 30-60 seconds slower than usual.
After the race (and a few scoring mistakes) Leesville boys placed 5th behind Millbrook, Gibbons, Broughton, and Hoggard. The girls placed 6th behind Gibbons, Laney, Sanderson, Hoggard, and Broughton. This meant that neither team would advance to the state championship, but James Blizzard (the number 1 Leesville boy) managed to qualify as an individual.
The state championship was the following week at Kernersville. However, the day before states Millbrook, the favored team to win, announced they had a runner who tested positive for COVID-19 meaning the Millbrook team could no longer run. This left Hoggard to be the new favorite to win.
James Blizzard, the only Leesville runner who qualified, did not have the race he wanted to, placing 21st overall. Even though the standings favored Hoggard to win, Gibbons ended up squeaking out a win by a mere two points. The rest of the teams were not far behind as Hoggard only beat third by seven points. There was only a sixteen point spread between Gibbons and the seventh team, Green Hope.
Although Leesville may have not done as well as they were hoping leading into the postseason, next year there is a glimmer of hope. The majority of Leesville’s varsity team are not seniors, so most of them will be returning to run next year; this includes both girls and boys, so Leesville fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming season.
Hi! My name is Francis and I am a senior editor for The Mycenaean. I run, I am good at Mario Kart Wii, and I’m a good cook.