Cross country: East boys win county title on tiebreaker
By Bret Strelow
Coleton Boone, paralyzed from the chest down, lay in a hospital bed 16 months ago.
East Rowan coach Rick Roseman considered Boone’s return to competitive running a rousing victory, and Boone contributed to another one Thursday.
The boys teams from East and South Rowan tied for first in the Rowan County Cross Country Meet, and Boone’s 17th-place finish enabled the Mustangs to claim the tiebreaker.
Doctors diagnosed Boone with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis ó a sometimes fatal neurological disorder that causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord ó last May.
“For Coleton to be the deciding factor in his senior race, it’s what a miracle is all about,” Roseman said. “The year before he’s paralyzed, and I was hoping he’d walk again. The determination he has shown, no one could be more deserving.”
Race winner Ross Oden (16:54), fourth-place Cole Honeycutt (17:19), 10th-place Eli Walton (18:00), 11th-place Brad Oden and 14th-place J. Michael Shuping gave East a total of 40 points.
South compiled the same number thanks to strong showings by Tyler Kowalczyk (second, 17:02), Michael York (third, 17:10), Dalton Johnson (seventh, 17:41), Eric Delgado (13th) and Nathaniel Winslow (15th).
The result of each team’s sixth-place entry was needed to break the first tie at the county meet since 2000, when Salisbury’s boys edged East. Boone crossed with a time of 18:39, and teammate Hunter Arey finished 19th at 18:46. Jeff Culbertson, the No. 6 runner for South, was 20th at 18:53.”I didn’t do as good as I wanted to ó I’m usually the fourth or fifth runner ó but I’m glad I could be part of it and make a difference,” Boone said.
Boone ran in the county meet last September and struggled to stay on his feet once he crossed the finish line with a disappointing time.
An MRI last week revealed the disorder has permanently affected his spinal cord, but Boone said he’s close to competing at 100 percent.
“This year I was a whole lot stronger through it and was able to push through at the end,” Boone said. “Sometimes my muscles still get fatigued, but it takes a lot. All the guys have pushed me and made me what I am today.”
The Mustangs are county champs today because they’ve overcome several obstacles.
Roseman had surgery this summer, so Billy Mills and Jon Heidrick took the team to Appalachian State’s camp. Mills awoke the runners each morning with a Tarzan yell.
A stress fracture in one foot sidelined Walton until last Thursday, when he started his comeback with 2-mile runs. Shuping, a senior, was injured in a terrible four-wheeling accident as an eighth-grader.
Honeycutt is a freshman, and Ross Oden is in only his second year of cross country.
“We just said to run as fast as you can,” Oden said. “If you run as fast as you can, everything will work out.”
Departed seniors Philip Tilley and Blake Overcash led South to the county title last year, and five sophomores finished in its top seven Thursday.
York placed 32nd as a freshman with a 20:46, and he cut more than 31/2 minutes off his time.
“We had some people step up today,” Kowalczyk said. “We knew we had a slim chance, but I didn’t think we’d come this close.”
The Raiders couldn’t have come any closer without actually winning.
Oden took the lead for good halfway through the race, and his teammates moved quickly enough to make Boone’s spot matter. When the Mustangs huddled afterward, Mills offered another Tarzan impression.
“You can’t ever tell when you pass somebody or somebody passes you whether that might be the difference in the race, and this time it was,” Roseman said. “When you win on a tiebreaker, everybody is big.”
NOTES: Ethan Horne (sixth, 17:32) led Carson to a third-place finish, and Dillon Kluttz (ninth, 17:49) was the lone all-county performer for fourth-place West. Fifth-place Salisbury had two top-10 runners: Philip Tonseth (fifth, 17:26) and Nick Summers (eighth, 17:44). Augustine Wiggins (32nd) led North Rowan.