NPC Girls Cross Country: Carson makes history with win

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 21, 2009

By David Shaw
Carson’s girls cross-country team spent Wednesday chasing history at Dan Nicholas Park ó and finally caught it.
The Cougars earned the school’s first conference championship when they placed five finishers in the top 25 and narrowly won the North Piedmont Conference title.
“It’s just amazing,” fourth-year coach Les-Lee Efird said after Carson totaled 45 points and edged runnerup South Rowan (50), and West Iredell (60) and East Rowan (69). “When we started out the first year, we started with one runner. We’ve kind of been overlooked. Today we’re making history, but to see where we came from is great.”
West Rowan junior Leslie Pence won the 5,000-meter race in 20:29.3, but that wasn’t surprising. She won the pre-conference meet earlier this season and has spent most of the fall running away from people.
“Leslie’s been a great runner since middle school,” Carson’s Sierra Zemanick said after placing second in 20:43.1. “I’ve never beaten her here. I did beat her last week (in the United Way Invitational in Newton), but that probably just made her mad.”
Pence recorded her best career time but used last week’s subpar finish as an invigorating tool.
“Sometimes I just slow down and lose my motivation when someone passes me,” she said. “I start thinking that I’ve lost the race. So today I just wanted to get ahead and stay there.”
Pence made her move around the two-mile mark. She was neck-and-neck with Zemanick when she grabbed the lead, squeezed tight and never let go.
“I felt her slowing down,” Pence explained. “That’s when I sped up. I wanted to take advantage of everything I could and get as far ahead of her as possible.”
Efird discussed the friendly rivalry between the two competitors.
“Sierra’s always looked up to Leslie Pence,” she said. “She’s always wanted to beat her, but at the same time she doesn’t feel bad getting beat by Leslie because Leslie’s great.”
Efird said a change in philosophy fueled Carson’s title run. “Today I told Sierra she shouldn’t think like that,” she said. “I told her she should be the one that Leslie’s pacing off of, not the other way around.”
Ultimately, Carson ó second to Salisbury in the county championship meet ó triumphed because Zemanick shaved 53 seconds off her personal best time and sophomore Sarah Holman (15th in 22:38.5) were spectacular.
“Sarah’s time was a minute-fifteen better than her previous best,” Efird said. “She was the key today.”
Other Carson scorers were Jordan Murdock (4th in 21:22), Devan Purvis (10th in 22:12) and Alex Hunter (25th in 23:37). Teammates Talley Madina and Jan Sitterson completed the winning lineup.
“After losing the county by three points ó and three points is nothing ó we were like, ‘It can’t happen again.’ So today we’re conference champs,” Efird said.

NOTES: South Rowan had a pair of top-10 finishers: senior Emily Kinney (3rd in 21:08.5) and junior Camille Craddock (7th in 21:48.9). … West Rowan had only three finishers and did not place in the team standings.