Wayne County Cross Country Championships
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 21, 2007 2:58 PM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Thursday afternoon's rainfall might have been more suitable for ducks, but the nearly 70 runners vying for individual and team bragging rights in the seventh annual Wayne County Cross Country Championships didn't mind the wet conditions.
In fact, most welcomed it.
Accustomed to running in humid and near-searing temperatures this season, the runners reveled in the cooler atmosphere and staged two extremely-competitive races at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park. Eastern Wayne's girls successfully defended their team title with a 36-39 nail-biter over archrival Charles B. Aycock.
Wayne Christian took third with 48 points.
Golden Falcon sophomore Caroline Schlaeppi emerged the individual champion with a four-second triumph over the Warriors' Kelly Gregorcyk. Schlaeppi finished 14th at last year's meet, while Gregorcyk took third.
"We stayed neck and neck through most of the trail, like it was two days ago at Aycock," said Schlaeppi. "I sprinted as hard as I could. I am so excited."
On the boys' side, the Warriors captured their sixth county crown with a convincing 32-67 decision over meet host Spring Creek. The Golden Falcons claimed third with 78 points, followed by Wayne Christian (80) and 2006 champion Southern Wayne (95).
Junior Nik Fredrick, runner-up a year ago, took command during the first mile and easily defeated Wayne Christian junior Josh Magnus by 20 seconds. Magnus led the pack of runners through the first turn and out of the parking lot, but lost momentum on the challenging Neuse trail.
Fredrick's performance nearly mirrored last year's race at historic Waynesborough Park. He once again opted to let another runner set the tempo and this time, Fredrick picked the perfect spot to overtake Magnus.
"Josh is really tough and is a competitor," said Fredrick, who posted a time of 18 minutes, 45 seconds. "Whenever I know someone has a good kick, I just try to work him out in the middle of the race. That's when I usually kick so I can get some distance.
"I just took the initiative and luckily he never came back."
Magnus said Fredrick took control once the two runners passed through the parking lot the second time. As they entered the trail again, Fredrick increased the pace.
"Nik is amazing, has definitely gotten better," said Magnus. "On the second lap near the middle of the course, he got a higher pace and was able to maintain it. I was keeping the same pace I had from the beginning."
Magnus crossed the line in 19:05.
Eastern Wayne's Tim Wright and Stefan Henshaw recorded third- and fourth-place times, respectively. Aycock's Lamont Woodard was fifth in 20:23. The Warriors' Andrew Cumming and Tyler Thornton rounded out the top seven.
Justin Braithwaite complemented Magnus with an eighth-place effort of 20:55. Alex Casey claimed the top time by a Spring Creek runner, while Southern Wayne's Scott Harrell and Jordan Hood strolled through in 10th and 11th place, respectively.
Demarkus Herring, Goldsboro's lone runner, was 28th overall. Rosewood's Nathan Pounds finished 32nd.
"East of Raleigh, this is the hardest course I've ever run," said Fredrick. "You have hills coming out of nowhere and on those hills you have sand. Getting your kick in the sand is so much harder than just running up a hill.
"You kick up more sand than you gain ground."
Schlaeppi, like Fredrick, agreed the 3.1-mile course presented a good test for the runners. She added that the course wasn't too narrow, which gave the competitors more room to maneuver.
That extra space enabled Schlaeppi to use one last spring to best Gregorcyk for the second time in less than 72 hours.
"The course was easy-going, but was definitely long," said Schlaeppi. "You could run easier and I'm glad I had that last sprint."
Schlaeppi consistently gained a little advantage on the flat portions of the course, but Gregorcyk picked up ground on the hills. But didn't have enough left when Schlaeppi, who registered a time of 23:35, sprinted about the last 100 meters.
"I stayed on her shoulder pretty much the entire race," said Gregorcyk, who finished in 23:39. "I'm happy with it."
Aycock's Meagan Hales grabbed third in 24:35. Wayne Christian standout Jennifer Price, the 2006 individual champion, settled for fourth in 24:58.
The Warriors' Sarah Schley, the Golden Falcons' Lorena Estrada and Goldsboro senior Danielle Irby completed the top seven. Irby finished runner-up a year ago and said a difficult, hilly course on Wednesday at North Lenoir caused her to experience fatigue during the second mile.
"It was tiring, but a good experience," said Irby. "They're all good runners, so I just tried to stay with them. On the second mile, those hills started getting to me and my legs started hurting."
Rosewood's Jennifer Page finished 15th overall. Emily Hudson was Southern Wayne's top runner in 18th and the Gators' Savannah Egleston was 23rd.
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