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XC teams post strong finishes

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Cockerham, Smith place second; Loftin and Pauley earn all-region status.

By The Gazette

 PEARISBURG –– Galax advanced both its girls’ and boys’ teams to the state meet and the Maroon Tide’s Travis Cockerham missed by a whisker winning the boys’ individual championship, finishing a close second to Glenvar’s James Kasper at the Region C cross country championships in Pearisburg.

Cockerham, a junior, led throughout most of the 3-mile course until Kasper made a late charge, nipping the Maroon Tide runner at the finish despite Cockerham’s diving lunge at the line.

Kasper was credited with a winning time of 16 minutes, 44 seconds, with Cockerham also clocking a 16:44. Bath County’s Matt Persinger was eight seconds back in third.

The Maroon Tide’s Kevin Loftin placed sixth overall, also crossing the line in a virtual dead heat with his closest competitor. Frank Poth of Auburn edged the Galax senior at the stripe to take fifth, with both runners posting a time of 17:07.

Galax’s boys placed third as a team with 97 points, six points behind second-place Auburn. Radford claimed the boys’ team championship with 58 points.

Cockerham, Loftin and Grayson County’s Tyler Pauley (15th) earned all-region honors for their top-15 finishes. Pauley had begun the fall sports season as a football player before being sidelined with a shoulder injury, but found his niche as a distance runner and qualified for the state meet in his first attempt with a personal-best time of 17:35.

Justin Ayers was third for the Maroon Tide, 27th overall in 18:10, followed by Trevor Quesenberry (33rd, 18:23) and Dyllan Taylor (34th, 18:23).

Grayson County’s Carley Smith was the region runner-up in the girls’ race, placing second with a time of 28:38. Kaitlin Smith of Radford built a comfortable lead and outran the field with a winning time of 19:55.

A junior, Smith garnered all-region honors for the third time, steadily improving from a seventh-place finish as a freshman and fourth place last year.

Galax’s girls finished fourth in the team standings and advanced to the Group A meet with 133 points, just six behind third-place Patrick Henry. Radford had three of the top five finishers and was the girls’ team champion with 42 points, well ahead of runner-up Parry McCluer (79).

Megan Boyles paced the Maroon Tide girls with her 17th-place effort, finishing in 21:45. Lindsey Ayers was second among Galax runners in 20th (21:56), followed by Marleigh Durham (27th, 22:30),  Alexandra Moreno (38th, 23:04) and Jennifer Laws (43rd, 23:21). A senior, Durham saw her season extend to the state championships for a fourth time.

Grayson County finished fifth as a team with 147 points. Layken Parks was 19th individually in 21:50, followed by the Blue Devils’ Hayley Reavis (41st, 23:18), Olivia Wyatt (46th, 23:40) and Melody Mallison (52nd, 23:54).

Despite running the championships in cold, wet, muddy conditions, most area runners posted times significantly quicker than those recorded on the same course under dry conditions earlier in the season.

“Most of our kids improved from a minute to a minute and a half from last time, which was incredible, considering the course conditions,” said Galax coach Tony Quesenberry.

The Maroon Tide boys advanced as a team to the Group A meet for the 18th time in the program’s 22-year history, and the girls’ team reached the state meet for the first time since 2001 and for the 10th time overall.

“Coach [Mary Jane] Ballard and I have always stressed to the kids the importance of the end of the season and being your best when it counts,” Quesenberry said. “These kids have responded this year to every challenge we have given them.

“This has truly been one of the most enjoyable years of coaching due to the work ethic of both our girls’ and boys’ teams.”

REGION IV

Carroll County advanced two girls and its entire boys’ team to the Region IV meet, held at Dan Daniel Park in Danville.

The Cavalier boys placed third as a team in the Southwest District meet, with Kendall Haynes earning all-SWD honors with his eighth-place finish in 19:35. Haynes was followed by Logan Utt (21:48), Kenneth Horton (22:01) Benny Bolen (23:28) and Hunter Blessing (23:37).

Elise Zyvlosky (24:07) placed fifth in the girls’ race and Lindsey Brumfield (26:07) was 14th for the Cavalier girls, earning all-district recognition and advancing to the Region IV meet.