YORK — Mariah Craig, a freshman at York Comprehensive High School, had the winning time in last week’s home girls’ cross country meet against Nation Ford and York Prep.
Craig, the YCHS girls’ No. 1 runner since the final meet of last season, knows what it takes to be successful in the sport.
“It takes a lot of preparation and hard work,” Craig said. “You have to stay with it. You have to be mentally and physically prepared to compete at a high level in cross country.”
Craig’s commitment paid off in the three-way meet last Thursday, where she had a winning time of 6:39.4 per mile.
Hannah Barnwell, a senior, is in her third season of high school cross country. “I actually had better times my sophomore year,” Barnwell said. “But I am still working hard to improve my times.”
Barnwell said she is competing in a sport that means a lot to her. “Our team is like family,” she said. I love to run cross country.”
YCHS head cross country coach Eddie Sanders, who was groomed to coach cross country and track by the late Bob Jenkins of National Coach of the Year fame, said he has seen the girls’ and boys’ cross country teams win 14 of 19 meets this season.
“We’ve had some good meets and outstanding individual performances,” said Sanders. “There have been some ups and downs but the kids are working hard.”
Senior John Stewart, a third-year boys’ cross country runner, said competing in the fall helps him lose weight for the wrestling season, which cranks up next month.
“Cross country also helps my conditioning, which is an added benefit,” Stewart said.
Senior runner Matt Ransom, a mainstay with the Cougar track team, is in his second year of cross country and will enter his third year running track in the spring.
“Coach is pushing us more to reach our potential this season,” Ransom said. “Cross country is more team-oriented than track.”
Senior runner Erick Gonzalez, in his second year of running cross country, agrees with Ransom that team members are responding to more encouragement from the coach.
Gonzalez said conditioning plays a key role in finding success on the cross country course. “Running in the off-season is necessary in reaching the level of success cross country runners strive for,” he said.
In Thursday’s meet with Nation Ford and York Prep, Nation Ford finished first YCHS second and York Prep third.
With Craig winning the girls’ competition, other top 10 finishers for York were: Jena Dasilva, fifth, 7:18.6 per mile; Hannah Barnwell, eighth, 7:27.8; Victoria Burgess, ninth, 7:30.7; Natalee Price, 10th, 7:33.7; Victoria Niemann, 11th, 7:34.4; Caroline Gross, 13th, 7:45.2; Abby Good, 16th, 8:11.3; and Samantha Van Camp, 17th, 8:11.8.
Two York Prep runners placed in the top 10, Allie Tkach, 15th, 8:06.9, and Alena Walrod, 19th, 8:25.8.
York’s Stewart finished among the top participants in the boys’ cross country event at 13th, with Jared McCrone at 19th.
Stewart had a 5:45.3 per mile score and McCrone 6:01.4. Finishes for other top York runners are, Colt Parker, 20, 6:01.8; Luke Bomar, 21, 6:08.9; Cole Rumfelt, 22, 6:11.5; and Tyler Jackson, 23, 6:12.8.
The Region 3-AAAA meet will be at 5 p.m. Thursday at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill.