Prep Cross Country: Carson girls 2nd; Conrad 2nd individual

Published 9:36 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017

By Mike London

SALISBURY — With a healthy Taylor Wiggins, the Carson girls would have gone down to the wire with South Iredell in Thursday’s North Piedmont Conference Cross Country Championships.

But Wiggins is still sidelined by a right knee injury, and South Iredell’s score of 33 won in a breeze at Salisbury Community Park. The Vikings placed five runners in the top 10, led by third-place Gia Sirianni, fourth-place Parker Jones and seventh-place Emily Dumont.

Carson’s score was 50, which sounds a long way off, but a healthy Wiggins easily would’ve finished in the top five. She would’ve pushed at least three South Iredell runners down a spot, maybe all five of them. Carson’s fifth runner was 19th, so Wiggins would have improved Carson’s score quite a bit. Even with Wiggins moving three teammates down a spot, Carson would have scored in the 30s.

But that’s water under the bridge. The only thing the Cougars seemed concerned about was getting Wiggins healthy for regional competition at Charlotte’s MacAlpine Greenway on Oct. 28.

“My teammates ran a great race without me, and I was just hoping we could still finish second in the conference,” Wiggins said. “I’ll be in the regional. That’s the goal. That’s the plan.”

North Iredell sophomore Jonna Strange, who topped the field in the United Way Invitational in Newton in 18:47, stayed on a roll on a warm, but not unpleasant, afternoon. She ran 18:51 to win by more than a minute.

“That girl was great,” said Carson sophomore Taylor Conrad, who finished second in 20:09. “But I was very proud of all my teammates for competing the way they did today and for running so hard for Taylor Wiggins. I pushed myself as much as I  could have, really pushed myself on those hills.  I  got a PR and I was proud to get a PR on such a difficult course.”

As a flurry of blue and gold South Iredell runners streamed across the finish line, it was apparent that the only tight race was going to be for second between Carson and Strange’s red-clad North Iredell squad.

North Iredell’s second runner, Daelyn Dowell, took fifth, but Carson freshman Lani Isley charged across in 21:42 for sixth place and all-conference honors. The top eight runners in the six-team league make all-conference.

Carson seniors Olivia Gabriel, who will likely become the school’s all-time leading basketball scorer this winter, and Jessie Nichols stuck close together, as is often the case. They finished 12th and 13th.

Carson’s Kimberly Barrera, a sophomore, and senior teammate Amanda Patton, ran almost side by side. They crossed the line 20th and 21st, officially, one second apart. As far as the team point total, Barrerra was recorded as 19th, giving Carson its 50 score.  Barrera got 19 points, instead of 20, because Statesville, which had the 15th-place runner (Maddie Simmons), didn’t have the necessary five finishers to register a team score.

North Iredell finished with 57 points.

Fourth-place East Rowan (114) was paced by freshman Elizabeth Avalos, who finished 14th.

West Rowan was fifth with 119 points, but freshman Megyn Spicer sprinted to eighth place to earn all-conference recognition.

“I started off  kind of slow, but I finished strong,” Spicer said. “It was in my head at the start that it was a really hard course, but I got past that. I started pushing past people and pushing up those hills.”

Spicer is interested in a lot of sports and is one of the famous Little League World Series softball girls, but cross country and track are where she may shine brightest. She’s a natural runner.

“Her freshman times put her right there with Rebecca Parker and Josie Heglar (recent county champions from West who went on to compete in college),” West coach Scott Foster said. “The first time I saw her working out, she was running with the boys, with no problem. She’s got it. She’s an athlete. She can be really good at this.”