Prep Cross Country: Ledford dominates CCC boys meet
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Ledford senior Justin Todd has been several steps ahead of the competition most of the fall, and that trend continued at Salisbury Community Park.
Last month, Todd won the prestigious Hare & Hounds Invitational in Charlotte in 16:25 and he broke the school record with a 16:03 clocking and a second-place finish in the Greensboro Invitational. By Todd’s standards, a winning time of 16:42 in Tuesday’s 2A Central Carolina Conference Championships was no big deal, but he turned in that clocking on a challenging course that doesn’t yield quick times.
“This is a tough course, one of the toughest around,” said South Rowan’s freshman phenom, Noah Julian, who turned in a 17:29 clocking for fifth place.
Todd paced Ledford to an overwhelming team triumph. The Panthers posted a score of 23 (15 is perfect) and put five runners in the top nine. Jordan Howerton was runner-up, crossing the line 15 seconds behind Todd. Caleb Greene (4th), David Orozco (7th) and Dalton Zimmerman (9th) completed the scoring for the Panthers. The top 15 runners make all-conference, so a third of those elite 15 were Panthers.
There was a good scrap for second place with Central Davidson (74) edging North Davidson (77). Like Ledford, Central Davidson and North Davidson have dropped down to the 2A ranks this fall and have dramatically raised the level of competition in the CCC.
Spencer Littlefield (3rd) led the Spartans, who also placed Tyler Miller (14th) on the all-conference team. Cameron Mercer (6th) led the Black Knights, who also got quality runs from Jacob Grubb (11th) and Zack Rivera (14th).
South Rowan’s fourth-place showing (91 points) was sparked by Julian, whose is motivated by the stellar times posted by his uncle, Ben Frick, at East Rowan, in the 1990s. While Julian is only a freshman, he’s already been running seriously for five years.
“I was very happy with what I did today,” Julian said. “Based on the times coming in, I was supposed to finish fifth, and that’s where I finished.”
Junior Ari Moya also had a great day for the Raiders. He placed 12th with a personal best of 18:25, and the roar for him was as loud as it was for anyone when he was introduced to the crowd as part of the all-conference team.
“We’ve practiced out here at this course a lot, so it feels natural to us,” Moya said. “We know when to surge and we know when we have to back off.”
Salisbury had ruled the conference recently and had taken four straight team championships, but the landscape has been altered dramatically in the CCC. All four of the teams that finished ahead of Salisbury on Tuesday are new to the league (South Rowan and North Davidson) or have returned to the league from higher classifications (Ledford, Central Davidson).
“We probably ran our worst meet of the year today, and it wasn’t a good time to do that,” Salisbury coach Tim Pittman said. ” I really thought we could as high as second, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Salisbury’s lone All-CCC performer was senior Keegan Dillon, who finished eighth in 18:04 and earned all-conference honors for the fourth straight season.
“It was a really good day to run, a lot cooler than usual,” Dillon said. “I messed up a tendon in the county meet and I slipped on some mud today, but I was pretty happy with what I was able to do.”
Salisbury’s 127 topped only new school Oak Grove (157), West Davidson (172) and East Davidson (176) as far as schools posting team scores.
West Davidson had an All-CCC performer in Adam Willis (10th), while East Davidson’s Balmir Rene grabbed the last all-conference berth.
Thomasville and Lexington are CCC members, but had no team scores.