10/07/04 — Prep cross country -- Panthers hold off Princeton runners

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Prep cross country -- Panthers hold off Princeton runners

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 7, 2004 1:56 PM

PRINCETON -- A comfort zone.

The familiarity of Princeton High's cross country course aided its own Heather Braswell, while Spring Creek standout Eric Walters experienced little trouble navigating the somewhat-level trek.

Braswell ran the 3.1-mile layout in 21 minutes, 55 seconds as the Bulldogs nearly upended archrival North Johnston. The Panthers placed three runners among the top five and escaped 27-30 on a sunny, breezy Wednesday afternoon.

"Last week, we had our largest winning margin against them and this week we had the smallest margin," North Johnston coach Mickey Newton said. "That's two big extremes from one week to the next. They (Princeton) just ran a great race, and it was the best day for a race."

Runners kicked off the fourth Carolina event of the season at the parking lot entrance beside the school. They ran a couple of laps around the Fred Bartholomew Athletic Complex and finished the last 50 or so yards on the asphalt track.

The breezy conditions helped keep the runners cool, especially the soft-spoken Braswell.

"I felt strong today," she said. "The course isn't that hard because I run it all the time. I know how to pace myself and know what to expect. It was a pretty good day today."

Fellow Bulldog Courtney Yancey stayed on Braswell's heels throughout the race. She took second in 22:43 and head coach Amanda Rowland thought this might be the day her team finally breaks the Panthers' stranglehold on the conference.

However, Heather Creech led a 3-4-5 finish for North Johnston and turned in a time of 23:09. About one minute later, teammates Elizabeth Baker and Amanda Sharpe had crossed the line to help the Panthers capture their fourth Carolina meet in four tries.

Brittany Stewart kept Rowland's upset hopes alive with a sixth-place effort, but the Panthers took the next two spots to seal the deal.

Spring Creek competed without Barbara Witherington, who missed the meet due to illness. Molly Parker and Carin Griep took 18th and 19th, respectively, among the 21 female runners.

North Duplin's Amy Hicks was 20th in 32:24.

"Beat Joey."

That's been Walters' slogan all season and he did it in stirring fashion. Walters ran a smooth race and passed Farmville Central's Joey Santopolo, one of the state's top runners, midway through the final lap.

Santopolo started to fade as he and Walters entered the last quarter of their race.

"I was running with him all the way, but when I saw him die down, I pushed myself harder," Walters said. "This course is very flat and makes it easier to run because there isn't anything uphill or downhill.

"It was a good race and Farmville Central is good competition. I wouldn't mind running this course again."

The timers clocked Walters in 18:41, nearly half a minute faster than his time in last week's meet at North Johnston. Santopolo (19:14) ended up second for the second straight week.

"Eric is a workhorse," Gators coach Mike Jones said. "He is the spirit of the team and puts his whole heart into it every day. I'm proud of him."

The Jaguars' Brandon Cox claimed third in 19:49, followed by the Panthers' Matt Peedin in 20:03. North Duplin's Jose Ledezma, who held second place midway through the opening lap, grabbed fourth in 20:07. Teammate Clint Bland emerged fifth in 20:23.

Phillip Croom led Princeton with a sixth-place time of 20:31.

Farmville Central, the reigning conference champion, clipped Spring Creek 41-47, for team honors. North Johnston slipped past North Duplin 64-67. Princeton and Rosewood each had runners to participate, but not enough to post a team score.


Farmville Central 41,

Spring Creek 47,

North Johnston 64,North Duplin 67

1. Eric Walters, S. Creek 18:41

2. Joey Santopolo, F. Central 19:14

3. Brandon Cox, FC 19:49

4. Matt Peedin, N. Johnston 20:03

5. Jose Ledezma, N. Duplin 20:07

6. Clint Bland, ND 20:23

7. Phillip Croom, Princeton 20:31

8. Kasey Lake, NJ 20:44

9. Spencer Nichols, FC 20:52

10. Pat Wilkins, SC 20:53

Other area runners

11. Alex Casey, SC no time

14. Alex Rogers, SC no time

15. Cliff Wilson, SC no time

17. Mike Mathis, ND 21:21

20. Daniel Ellis, Rosewood 21:41

23. Daniel Correll, SC no time

24. Aaron Wilkins, ND 22:14

25. Kyle Carrette, ND 23:02

36. Daniel Ferrell, R 31:31


North Johnston 27,

Princeton 30

1. Heather Braswell, Princeton 21:55

2. Courtney Yancey, P 22:43

3. Heather Creech, N. Johnston 23:09

4. Elizabeth Baker, NJ 23:36

5. Amanda Sharpe, NJ 24:18

6. Brittany Stewart, P 24:19

7. Jenna Gudac, NJ 24:51

8. Ashley Sharpe, NJ 25:06

9. Alyssa McKay, P 25:11

10. Katie Young, NJ 25:14