By: Aaron Daum
After far too long, Lake Norman Charter’s women’s cross country team has finally brought home their second state championship, following two close finishes in the past two years. Facing the best in the state, it wasn’t fully evident that the team had won until the runner-up team, North Lincoln, had been announced. Seniors Mariah Howlett and Izzy Evely led the charge to the state title, placing first and second in the race, respectively. Howlett clocked the second fastest time of any female runner that day, 18:03.43 for 5 kilometers, breaking her own school record and following 22 seconds behind 4A stand-out Natalie Tyner. 4 seconds later, Evely crossed the finish line, beating out North Lincoln’s Chandler Mccaslin by 36 seconds, and running the 4th fastest time of the day. Both Mariah and Izzy will move onto run track next spring, before heading off to run at the collegiate level.
(Above: The girl’s cross country team and coaches Eli Johnson and Craig Zamiara accept their award for winning the state meet)
The placing of Howlett and Evely did give LNC some big points, but the victory was sealed by huge performances from underclassmen Abby Farris, Anna Gartner, and Monique Gandy, all of whom passed several athletes in the final 100 meters of the race (check out this article on cross country scoring http://www.cougarsxc.com/Info/how_to_score_xc.html). Farris, a freshman, joined her senior team mates on the stage to receive all-state honors, after finishing 8th place and setting a personal best of 19:32.06, which has cemented her place as the third fastest freshman ever to run for LNC. Gartner and Gandy closed out LNC’s score, placing 21st and 49th for a team score of 66 (some points were removed from our score as individual qualifiers, who do not count for points, came in ahead of some runners.) An effort this massive by the whole team can only be attributed to close teamwork, which is a specialty of this year’s girl’s team. They nicknamed themselves the “Spicy Girls,” and had the “closest bond that I have ever had on a team,” in the words of Coach Zamiara.
Earlier in the day, the boy’s team reached an unprecedented 3rd place finish, topped by 2nd place First Flight, and 1st place North Lincoln. Going into the race, the boys were projected to finish in 6th place, but the team performed well under pressure, with all of 7 runners reaching or coming close to a personal best. Derek Bole, the first finisher from LNC, ran 16:49.02, but attributes the day’s success to the whole team. “We were able to show off the training we’ve done, and we saw some great improvement from some of our teammates,” he says. Ryan Creel and Alvin Mutongi arguably had the most successful days on the boy’s side, improving on previous personal bests by 20 and 15 seconds, respectively. Kyle Smith and Jack Bosley also fought hard, recovering from sickness and injuries to finish in respectably fast times. For the circumstances, the boy’s team fought valiantly. North Lincoln and First Flight have both been juggernaut teams throughout the 2017 cross country season, with at least 4 boys running under 17 minutes in any given race.
To close out a day of awards for LNC, sophomore Anna Gartner was honored with the NCHSAA sportsmanship award. “I was surprised that I received the award,” she said, “I’m thankful that my teammates and Coach Zamiara see me as the kind of person that deserves this award and I hope I can continue to be a dedicated teammate.” LNC’s star runners return to the competitive sphere November 25th at McAlpine park in Charlotte, for the Footlocker South regional cross country meet, and will then return for track season in February.