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HILLSVILLE –– Galax won the Mountain Empire District boys’ cross country championship for the 18th time in the program’s 20 years of existence, placing seven runners among the top eight spots during the district meet Wednesday at the Southwest Virginia Training Center.
“Coach [Mary Jane] Ballard and I are extremely proud of all our athletes this year and all of the work they have put in to accomplish their team goals,” said Galax coach Tony Quesenberry. “Every runner on the team contributed to their team win today by their effort throughout the season and by pushing their teammates to continue to improve. I feel our kids are now beginning to peak in their race performances. Hopefully, next week at the Region C meet all of our kids will take the next step and qualify for the state meet.”
Numerous Galax runners posted their career best times on the cool, sunny afternoon, and Manuel Echeagaray completed a career sweep by winning his fourth individual championship. The Maroon Tide senior topped the field by 24 seconds, completing the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 44 seconds.
Jamie Oliver of Grayson County took the runner-up trophy and was the only non-Galax runner among the top eight. Oliver’s time of 17:08 was easily good for second place, while Galax’s Trent McMillon finished third in 17:44. The Maroon Tide’s Ryan Barker (18:25), Travis Cockerham (18:30), Kevin Loftin (18:33), Josh Fridley (19:11) and Tyler Garman (19:22) rounded out the top eight.
Barker, a first-year senior, topped his previous career best by a whopping 39 seconds while Cockerham and Loftin, both freshmen, also improved their career marks.
Only the top five finishing places counted toward the team score as Galax finished with 19 total points. Grayson County was second with 54 points and Fort Chiswell finished third with 65. Bland County and Narrows fielded incomplete teams.
Grayson County’s Ethan Liddle (21:27), Marlon Alessandra (22:06) and Randy White (22:13) finished in 12th through 14th places, respectively.
In the girls’ race, Galax won its 10th team championship as Marleigh Durham took the individual championship. A sophomore, Durham is halfway to a career sweep, adding to the individual title she won as a freshman. Her time of 20:56 was 49 seconds faster than second place, taken by Grayson County senior Leah Hall. The Blue Devils had two of the top three individuals (Carley Smith placed third in 21:58), but Galax’s depth came through with five finishers among the first nine. Jamie Webb was fourth overall for Galax in 22:45, followed by Marie Orton (seventh, 25:15), Sedia Bonsu (eighth, 26:05) and Kassie Frazier (ninth, 26:06). Webb and Orton posted their best time of the season on their home course. Lakyn Parks (23:40) finished fifth for Grayson County.
Galax finished with 29 points to Grayson County’s 42. Bland County was third with 54 while Fort Chiswell and Narrows were incomplete.
Galax’s Dyllan Taylor (19:38), Jacob Ogle and Trevor Quesenberry swept the top three spots in the boys’ JV race while the Tide’s Chandler Quesenberry (12:54) and Tyler Kirby finished 1-2 in the 2-mile middle school race.
Grayson County’s Hayley Reavis (13:21) won the girls’ middle school race, followed by Galax’s Lexie Delp and Ashley Jordan.
The Region C meet will be held Wednesday at Sugar Hollow Park in Bristol.
Carroll Count’s Matt Coble and Matt Felts placed among the top five individuals as the Cavaliers hosted the SWD meet Wednesday at the Carroll County Recreation Department.
Coble placed third overall for the Cavaliers in 17:39 and Felts added a strong fifth-place showing, crossing in 18:35.
Abingdon had little competition in the team standings, winning the boys’ championship with 22 points. Emory Ernest and Kris Johnston finished 1-2 for the Falcons, Ernest taking the individual title in 17:24, four seconds ahead of his teammate.
In a tight three-way battle for second place, Marion finished with 81 points to edge Tazewell (88) and Carroll County (89). The top four teams advance to next week’s Region IV meet. Grundy (109), Graham (162) and Richlands (194) rounded out the field.
Marion placed its first three runners among the first five to win the girls’ team championship with 40 points to Abingdon’s 48. Grundy (56) and Graham (75) rounded out the field while Carroll County, Tazewell and Richlands were incomplete. Melanie Rice breezed to the individual title with a time of 19:31, more than a minute and a half in front of runner-up Jessica Woodie of Graham.
Sydney Randall was the top finisher from Carroll County, placing 18th in 24:46.