Prep cross country: Conrad, Wiggins lead Carson girls to victory

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, August 24, 2017

By Mike London

SALISBURY — A perfect storm of events converged as Salisbury edged Carson by a single point for the Rowan girls county cross country championship last October, but it appears the Cougars are ready to retake control.

Carson won the county in 2014 and 2015 before being knocked off by the Hornets last year.

At Thursday’s Preseason-County Meet at Dan Nicholas Park, the Cougars dominated, putting seven runners in the top 18.  Carson’s score of 37 easily out-distanced surprising South Rowan (59) and Salisbury (64).

“I’m happy,” Carson coach Les-Lee Efird said. “If we can just keep the girls healthy, we can have a strong season.”

In last year’s Rowan championships, Taylor Wiggins ran a PR of 19:49 for first place, while teammate Taylor Conrad ran 20:20 for second place.

They’re both back in Carson orange. On Thursday, Conrad won by a landslide in 20:58. Wiggins finished second in 21:23, but she did it with championship sprit, getting up from a nasty fall and gritting her way to the finish line despite a twisted knee.

“There was a curve in the path coming out of the woods and the ground was uneven and I fell,” Wiggins said. “I was right behind Taylor (Conrad) when I fell.”

The two Taylors ran side-by-side or neck-and-neck virtually every step of the way until Wiggins went down. It would’ve been an exciting finish.

“We were helping to pace each other and to push each other,” Conrad said. “I hate that it happened. I hate Taylor fell because I didn’t want to win like that. I’m just glad she’s going to be OK.”

Carson has a meet Saturday, but Wiggins will be taking the ACT, so she wouldn’t have been able to compete, anyway.

Wiggins, a senior, was the county’s runner of the year in 2016, but Conrad may have won yesterday even without the accident. Conrad, a sophomore, has been working diligently.

“When I first started running cross country, it was just to stay in shape for my other sports (basketball and soccer),” Conrad said. “But now I really enjoy working at it, and it might end up being my best sport. I like that cross country is a sport I can practice on my own. It’s harder to practice soccer and basketball by yourself.”

Dependable Jessie Nichols (9th), a perennial all-county runner, was Carson’s third finisher. Basketball star Olivia Gabriel, who will take a shot at the school’s career coring record this winter, is back running cross country after taking last fall off. She placed 10th. Freshman Lani Isley was 15th.

“Having Olivia back really helps, and adding Lani helps,” Efird said. “For a freshman to be our fifth scorer today, that’s huge.”

The surprising Raiders were led by Madison Lowery (3rd), soccer phenom Madison Henry (7th) and Anahi Reta (8th). The Raiders also have an all-county returner in Madison McGuire (12th) and could make some noise before the season is over.

Salisbury had three solid runners, with Leah Cressler, Mary Kaufmann and Ellen Simons taking fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. The order was changed slightly, but that same trio also accounted for the 4-5-6 positions in last fall’s Rowan championships.

Megyn Spicer led West Rowan. She was 11th.

Grace Faller and Shalea Vanhoose were 13th and 14th and were the top East runners.

Team scores: Carson 37, South 59, Salisbury 64, East 85, West 110, North no score

Top 10: 1. Taylor Conrad (C) 20:58, Taylor Wiggins (C) 21:23, 3. Madison Lowery (SR) 21:52, Leah Cressler (SHS) 22:23, 5. Mary Kaufmann (SHS) 22:41, 6. Ellen Simons (SHS) 22:45, 7. Madison Henry (SR) 23:16. 8. Anahi Reta (SR) 23:27, 9. Jessie Nichols (C) 23:46, 10. Olivia Gabriel (C) 24:01.