The cross country program has built a longstanding tradition of excellence for Pinecrest athletics, and that continued even through two years of change and challenges that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.
This summer provided the chance to reinstate a tradition within the program, a trip to the mountains in early August, to train and grow as a team.
“It’s the best one we’ve ever had. They’ve got to set the dining hall up, they do the dishes and keep their bunks clean for inspection everyday. You’ve got to work as a team,” Pinecrest girls coach John Buchholz said. “We’ve got a lot of young ‘uns. It was a great camp and we’ve had a great summer. June and July we’ve had more participation than we’ve had in several years, so that makes a difference.”
The dividends from the five days in the Montreat area have the program together, more so than several years in the past. Team building through hiking and whitewater rafting built commanderie.
The Patriots have been the cream of the crop in cross country in their conference for several decades, and that experience has made them even better on the track.
In Tuesday’s conference opener at home, the Patriots finished first in the boys and girls races as a team. The first six finishers in the boys race came from Pinecrest, and 20 Patriot runners in the girls race crossed the finish line before the first runner from Southern Lee came across.
Leading the pack in the boys race was senior Zack Gilbertson, finishing in a time of 18 minutes and 50 seconds.
After being a leader the last few seasons with his performance and also guiding the program, his senior season started off on a high note with a first-place finish at the Providence Invitational, where he set his new personal best in a time of 15 minutes and 29 seconds in the 3.1-mile race.
A lot of the early positives for the team is because of the experience that camp provided.
“We just had a cross country camp and coming off that, we’re just super tight,” Gilbertson said. “This is one of the tightest teams we’ve ever had. And we’re all in good shape. We have 14 guys that can run under 20.”
Rounding out the top seven for the Patriots in the boys race were Raymond Hoffman in a time of 18:56, Connor Cuthrell in 19:07, Jacob Dorsch in 19:08, Sean Smyth 19:17, Isaac Carter in 19:28 and Angelo Lopsinger in 20:09.
“There is a brotherhood formed that we used to see when we went to camp. We’re definitely seeing it with these guys now. They really hold each other accountable,” boys coach Mike Devine said. “If there’s one thing that I like right now is that they’re engaging. At the end of the race with 600 meters to go, I look them in the eye and they’re competing.”
Senior Lauren Wimberly, who was one of the top runners for the Patriots last season on the girls side, took first in 21:15, leading a green wave across the finish line for the next eight minutes for Pinecrest were Campbell Hough in 23:40, Corrine McGuire in 23:51, Cynthia Monroe in 24:16, Lillian Ball in 24:33, Claire Collins in 24:44 and Sarah Kennedy in 24:48.
“Nothing is written in stone. Somebody could shoot up the ladder. It’s fun,” Buchholz said. “We’ve got three seniors in the top 10, two freshmen, three sophomores and two juniors. That’s pretty balanced.”
Pinecrest hosts a conference meet Tuesday. The boys race starts at 5:30 p.m., and the girls follow at 6.
Union Pines Sweeps Races Over Richmond
With its top seven runners finishing in the top 10 of both races, the Union Pines cross country teams won both the boys and girls races at home Tuesday afternoon.
In the girls race, the Vikings had the top four finishers and its seven placing runners finished in the top 10.
Junior Emily Mila finished first in a time of 23 minutes, 30 seconds, and paced the top four from Union Pines consisting of Laura Caviness in 23:45, Eva Reinhardt in 24:54 and Alleigh Flewwellin in 25:06. The other top finishers were Selah Kellner in 26:14, Alyssa Mabe in 27:23 and Abby Phillips in 27:26.
Freshman Corbin Weeks came in first for the Vikings, leading a pack of seven runners placing in the top eight. Weeks finished in a time of 18:21. Rounding out the Union Pines placing runners were Logan Totten-Lancaste in 18:55, Carter Broderson in 19:28, Brayden Muhly in 20:52, C.J. Wilkerson in 22:59, Andrew Hadley in 23:16 and Marshall White in 23:42.
Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.