Wayne Christian's Jones repeats as state champion
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 28, 2012 1:50 AM
CARY -- The strategy couldn't have been more perfect.
Epiphany's McKinley Gray set the pace.
Wayne Christian's Connor Jones stayed right on his heels.
The two were neck-and-neck after one lap around the Wake Med Soccer Complex cross country course Saturday morning. At the 21/2-mile mark, Jones made his move.
Using stored energy and brimming with confidence, Jones crossed the finish line in a personal-best 16 minutes, 44.05 seconds and successfully defended his N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A men's cross country championship.
Gray finished runner-up to Jones for the second consecutive year.
"It was a pretty even race and the weather was nice, that was a plus," Jones said. "It was a good, fast-paced race and the competition was about the same as last year."
Jones became the first two-time state champion in Wayne Christian's athletics history, and remains the fourth individual state title-holder overall along with Eric Williams (golf), Faith Sutton (women's tennis) and Anthony Mulligan (men's track).
Hickory Christian and Wayne Christian duplicated their respective 1-2 finishes from last year's team competition. Hickory placed five runners among the top 13 and collected 34 points. The Eagles had three top-15 runners and 58 points.
Epiphany placed third.
Junior Spencer Foster complemented Jones' effort with a seventh-place time of 18:57. Senior Baron Wise was 15th in 20:11, followed by Ben Sawyer's 20th-place time of 20:24. Chris Easom crossed the line 24th in 21:12 to cap the Eagles' scoring.
Teammates Levi Miller and Matthew Wells ran among the top 28.
"The boys ran really well," Wayne Christian head coach Bryan Jones said. "They all ran either close to or better than their personal records. They certainly stepped up for this race."
Three weeks earlier, Connor ran the challenging Wake Med course and ran out of steam toward the end. This time he conserved energy on the 3.1-mile trek that includes a slow-grade hill that is a half-mile long. Runners had to cross the hill twice before reaching the finish line.
"It wasn't a fast course by any means, it took a while ... felt like you were running more than three miles," Jones said. "It's the most-challenging course we've run this season."
Jones shadowed Gray most of the first lap.
"That's how we wanted it to go," coach Jones said.
The budding rivals ran step-for-step over the next half lap until Jones made his final surge and secured his second straight state title.
Wayne Country Day sophomore Jackson Warren finished 17th overall in 20:15. Fellow Chargers Robert Glass and Wang Stone took 34th and 36th, respectively. Freshman Shaw Conner was 41st.
On the girls' side, Wayne Christian's Sarah Allen and Georgia Parnell grabbed 15th and 19th, respectively. The Chargers' Lisa Peacock and Ami Hodges finished among the top 30.