Patriot Harriers Third in Jungle Run
A full moon provided a portion of the illumination as 995 runners competed in six races at South View High School’s 11th annual Jungle Run Saturday evening.
For the second rear in a row both the Pinecrest boys’ and girls’ teams finished third in the championship races. Runners from Pinecrest and Union Pines had individual medals presented to them during the award ceremony that concluded shortly before midnight.
“Being at night, it gets a lot of adrenalin going,” said Patriot junior Chris Kelly, a top 10 finisher for the second year in a row. “It’s got a lot of the good competition in the state and kind of gives us a preview of what our region is going to be like.”
In the first of two championship races that began at about 10 p.m., Kelly came in seventh in 16:24. His brother, Connor, came in eighth in the 2010 Jungle Run at 16:22. Sophomore Phillip Hall of Terry Sanford won in 15:57 while Millbrook took the team title.
“I felt pretty good because I got a 20-second PR (personal record),” Kelly said. “I went out a little slower than I expected. But I moved up when I needed to so it worked out well.”
Junior Matt Harmody (15th) and senior Will Pearson (16th) each earned medals for finishing in the top 20. Becket Killam (22nd) and Javier Bustos (34th) were a part of the Patriot team score that was within 15 points of Millbrook and eight behind second place R.J. Reynolds.
The girls’ championship race took an odd turn because of a wrong turn taken in the final half of the race by the four leaders. Claiming they took the wrong route because they lost sight of the all-terrain vehicle leading them, they were initially disqualified.
Patriot girls’ coach John Buchholz was a member of a panel of coaches that decided because the girls were so far ahead, and backtracked, they didn’t gain an advantage. The positions of winner Chandler Borton of Winston-Salem, Reynolds and the other three were reinstated.
The Millbrook and Leesville teams finished 1-2.
Patriot runners junior Jaleigh Jensen (14th) and seniors Sarah Pressley (17th) and Jennie Cunningham (19th) received medals for top-20 finishes. Juniors Zia Matti (29th) and Mulloy Manning (33rd) completed the Patriot team score with senior Savannah Merritt (34th) close behind.
Pressley (hernia) and Cunningham (sinus) are both coming back from surgeries in June. The time for Cunningham, last year’s Southeastern Conference champion, and East Regional runner-up, was almost a minute slower than a year ago.
“Honestly, I really like having Jennie out in front of me just because she’s a good pacer, a good role model and the ultimate captain,” Jensen said. “We have to understand she’s just coming back from surgery.
“I got over mine really, really fast because it was just a sports hernia repair. I’m looking forward to this season because I’m running better and can pay attention during a race because I don’t have any pain.”
Cunningham and Pressley were both competing in the Jungle Run for the fourth time. The Patriot girls finished second or third in each of those years.
Although none of them broke the 20-minute mark Saturday, Buchholz feels he will have five, if not seven, runners reach that milestone by the time the state meet rolls around in November.
“We’re hoping,” Jensen said. “We’re all right there at it. We’re a very close team during the race and after the race. We work together very well.”
One of the most impressive performances of the evening was by the Patriots’ Robert Anderson in the boys’ invitational race. The sophomore passed many runners before sprinting down the stadium straight-a-way to a close second.
“Almost all the races I do, I find some hidden energy at the end and just gut it out as hard as I can,” he said.
Sophomores Brandon Elliott (seventh) and Tommy Delaunay (11th) also received medals, helping the Patriots finish third.
Union Pines sophomore Abby Verchick was fourth in the girls’ invitational.
Earning medals for the third-place Patriot girls in that race were senior Kelsey Rea (seventh), junior Sarah Klug (13th) and freshmen Rachel Von Cannon (18th) and Jordan Edmondson (20th).
Wade Benton of Union Pines (sixth) was the top local finisher in the boys’ developmental race. Junior Patrick O’Sullivan (13th) of the Vikings also received a medal. Pinecrest freshman Rachel Stewart (fourth) and Union Pines freshman Kealee Morris (20th) received medals for their performances in the girls’ race.
The Patriots with 42 contestants in the six races and the Vikings with 26 were well represented.
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