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Prep Cross Country: Heglar holds off tough challengers

SALISBURY — West Rowan’s Josie Heglar was a runaway choice as the Post’s Rowan County Cross Country Runner as a junior in 2014.
It was a tighter race this time, a photo finish, but Heglar, a small girl with a large heart, repeats as the Post’s Runner of the Year.
Heglar won the county’s marquee event in early October — the Rowan County Championships at Dan Nicholas Park. She also ran the best time of the year for Rowan females — 19:54 — in the United Way Invitational at Southside Park in Newton. It also helped Heglar’s case that she’s a Division I signee. She signed recently with Western Carolina. She’ll compete in indoor track and outdoor track as well as cross country for the Catamounts.
While Heglar set a brisk pace, five schools produced all-county runners. Two of those runners almost caught Heglar with their finishing kicks in late October.
East junior Faith Faller was strong all season. She won the Rowan Pre-County Meet at Dan Nicholas and was a close second to Heglar in the Rowan County Championships. Faller was fifth in the SPC Championships and ran 20:41 in the regional, barely missing state qualification. She finished ahead of Heglar in several races, but not the biggest one.
Carson’s Taylor Wiggins, a sophomore basketball player who didn’t try cross country until this season, was third in the county meet and also grabbed the bronze medal with a 20:17 clocking in the South Piedmont Conference Championships. Wiggins was Rowan’s fastest runner in the 3A Midwest Regional (20:36) and represented Rowan’s four 3A schools in state competition.
It could be quite a duel between Wiggins and Faller for county runner of the year next season, and there’s always a chance for a new face (and new legs) to jump into the race. Wiggins came out of nowhere this season and sparked Carson to a repeat county championship.
Sophomore Jessie Nichols (fourth in the county championships) turned in another fine season for Carson and repeats on the all-county team. Also from Carson are sophomore Hannah Venable, a first-time all-county performer, and Olivia Gabriel, a sophomore basketball standout who also has made all-county in cross country two straight years.
East Rowan senior Faith Blume (fifth in the Rowan County Championships, eighth in the SPC Championships) is another repeat all-county performer and turned in an exceptional cross country career. East also places senior Anna Louise Alexander on the all-county team.
Senior Micah Helms was South Rowan’s top runner and repeats on the all-county team. She was 10th in the Rowan County Championships.
Salisbury’s all-county runners are youngsters. Sophomore Mary Kaufmann repeats on the all-county team, and freshman Ellen Simons (ninth in the Rowan County Championships) should be a factor in the county for many years. Both Hornets were All-CCC runners.
One of the best things about cross country is that most of the runners aren’t finished. Some are part of the current indoor track season and most will compete in outdoor track this spring.
While the Post makes the runner of the year pick, members of the all-county team are determined by a top-12 finish at the Rowan County Championships. Players may be omitted from the all-county team by request of their schools.

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