High school girls cross country: Webb, Cougars splash to wins
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Her ankles, knees and green running shoes paid a muddy toll, but Salisbury senior Sutton Webb emerged from the muck as a champion on Thursday.
Webb’s broad victory smile after the Rowan County Championships punctured the gloomy skies that drifted over soaking wet Dan Nicholas Park.
“I didn’t get to run in this meet last season, so definitely that was some motivation for me today,” Webb said. “This time I was going to make the most of the opportunity to compete. I was going to give it my all.”
Webb was disqualified (by technicality) from last winter’s unusual meet that had to be run in waves, but she can go, pure and simple.
A soccer phenom who is committed to the University of Georgia, she’s the county’s reigning 800 meters champion in track and field. She also was the Tracy Connor Award winner for 2020-21 as Rowan County Female Athlete of the Year.
Even if she wasn’t an incredible goal-scorer in soccer, her ability to be competitive in anything from the 100 to a 5K makes her very special.
ADs and coaches had to make decisions on a waterlogged Thursday afternoon to conduct the meet or not. Radar indicated the weather situation would improve, and so the meet went on. It was a good decision. While the course was saturated, the athletes didn’t have to race in the rain.
Webb competed with only two teammates and knew the Hornets would not be able to post a team score (five runners are needed), but that didn’t detract from her steely determination. She crossed the finish line in 20:51.
“It was pretty muddy out there,” Webb said. “Lots of puddles. But mentally, I was prepared for it to be worse than it was. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.”
As Webb reached the first mile marker, one of the Carson girls (it would have been Camden Corley or Makayla Borst) was still pushing her, but then Webb pulled away. She won by 43 seconds.
“I got out front,” Webb said. “There was some slipping and sliding, but I was able to stay there.”
Webb was half the story. The other half was another triumph for Carson’s team, coached by Les-Lee Ihme.
The Cougars won their third straight county team championship. In the last eight seasons, Carson has won this meet six times, and the Cougars were runner-up the other two seasons. South Rowan won once during that stretch (2018). There was a season (2016) in which Salisbury edged the Cougars by one point.
“We got another one and we were lucky enough to survive the day,” Ihme said. “But this has been the hardest season, and we’re going to be losing three good seniors. The COVID years have hurt the numbers in our program. We’ve got some recruiting to do.”
Carson has an experienced team. Corley, a senior who was the defending county champion, took second place in 21:34, while Borst, her junior running mate, took third. Cougar seniors Kendall Barbee (8th) and Brynn Sokolowski (12th) also achieved all-county status. Emily Landaverde, a freshman, was the fifth Carson scorer. She placed 14th in a field of 31 and sealed victory when she crossed the finish line.
“It was a great team win for us on a course that was muddy and rough,” Corley said. “I was sliding a good bit, and when I came to puddles, I just ran on through them. I had (South Rowan’s) Madison Beaver pushing me for a lot of the race. That helped me keep going. I was happy to get second place and happy the team won again.”
Carson’s team score of 34 topped South Rowan (55), East Rowan (60) and West Rowan (71).
Senior Bethany Rymer placed fourth to lead the Raiders. Twins Madison Beaver (5th) and Lindsey Beaver (11th) also finished in the top dozen to claim all-county recognition.
Meredith Bonner, who missed last year’s meet after an accident, led the Mustangs with a sixth-place finish. East freshman Leah Edwards was ninth.
Leading West were Jenna Wheeler (7th) and Katie Roberts (10th).