Prep Cross Country: Salisbury girls qualify for state race
By Mike London
KERNERSVILLE — Salisbury senior Mary Kaufmann knew Saturday’s 2A Midwest Regional in Kernersville was supposed to be her last cross country race for the Hornets.
But it wasn’t. Kaufmann and her Hornet teammates will compete again — in next Saturday’s 2A state championships.
“Mary ran a great race today, and I’m sure a big part of that was because she knew it could be her last one,” Salisbury coach Sallie Pittman said. “She led us today, ran close to her PR on a challenging course with some hills.”
Salisbury qualified for the state in 2016, but the region is a lot stiffer now with schools such as Ledford, North Davidson, Central Davidson and South Rowan moving down to 2A.
Based on this season’s times, Salisbury was projected to finish ninth on Saturday. Twenty-five percent of the teams in the regional would advance to the state. That meant six would be moving on.
“We hadn’t run very well at all in the recent conference meet in Salisbury,” Pittman said. “We’ve got some girls who have been hurt. We’ve run courses like Boone’s Cave that can beat your body up a little bit. But we knew it was possible if we ran our best to finish top six. We knew we had a shot.”
Kaufman paced the Hornets in 21:42 and finished 23rd. Leah Cressler, a sophomore who usually is Salisbury’s lead runner, finished right behind Kaufmann in 21:47 and was 24th.
“I think it threw Leah for a loop that Mary finished ahead of her, but it wasn’t because Leah didn’t do well,” Pittman said. “Mary was just really good.”
Ellen Simons, a junior who usually runs with Kaufmann, was next. She was 32nd, timed in 22:16.
Junior Freya Obermuller (64th) and sophomore Anna Grace Woolly (76th) rounded out the team scoring for the Hornets. Obermuller is an exchange student who lives with the Woollys.
“Anna Grace has had hip issues and couldn’t practice for 2 1/2 weeks,” Pittman said. “But she ran strong today.”
Salisbury’s other two runners also had memorable days. Sarah Flack, a freshman, was Salisbury sixth runner. She finished 130th. The Hornets’ seventh runner, senior Anna Patel, finished ahead of quite a few runners and also won a personal battle. She broke 30 minutes for the first time, crossing the line in 29:10.
When the team scores were announced, there was initial disappointment for the Hornets. They were announced as the seventh-place team, with South Rowan taking sixth.
But an error was discovered in the scoring — a Forbush girl’s time had been entered incorrectly — and when she slid down quite a few spots, that adjusted the team totals. Now it was Salisbury 214, South Rowan 214, a dead heat for the sixth and final berth to go to the state.
The tiebreaker is the sixth runner’s score. That’s where Flack proved decisive. South competed with the minimum five girls for a team score and didn’t have a sixth runner.
Now the Hornets are making a return trip, as a team, to the state event in Kernersville.
“I’m thrilled for our two seniors and really happy for Mary because she’s seen the bottom of the barrel and the top of the barrel during her career here,” Pittman said. “When she first started running for us, we were just trying to get enough girls to have a team score. But her last two years, we’ve gone to state.”
NOTES: Salisbury’s girls finished second in the county (behind Carson) and fifth in the Central Carolina Conference … South Rowan will be represented in the state meet by junior Madison Lowery, who finished eighth in 20:08 for all-region honors. South’s Madison Henry was 21st in 21:35 … South freshman Noah Julian nailed down the last individual qualifying spot for the 2A state meet for the boys. He was 22nd in 17:49. The top seven runners who aren’t on a qualifying team advance to the state as individuals. … Keegan Dillon ran 18:13 and placed 33rd to lead Salisbury’s boys to a 12th-place finish. South’s boys were 10th in the team scoring. … For 3A qualifiers, see page 2B.
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