High school boys cross country: Cougars take first county crown since 2015

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 15, 2023

By Mike London


SALISBURY — While Carson’s girls have been on a roll, Carson’s boys cross country team hadn’t been in the spotlight for a while.

On Thursday at Dan Nicholas Park, the male Cougars changed that narrative. They won their first Rowan County Championship since 2015.

“This was important,” Carson coach Zachary Marchinko said. “The county meet is always going to be important.”

South Rowan, blessed with back-to-back Julian brothers, had won the last five county meets, while West Rowan had won two straight before the Raiders started their run.

The standout for that 2015 Carson championship team was Marchinko, who ran a county meet record 15:44 and was crowned as individual champ.

Zachary Marchinko, who went on to compete for the Charlotte 49ers, is the son of Pfeiffer cross country and track coach Bob Marchinko.

Everyone expected Carson to win the county because the Cougars have won major meets this year, but sometimes things don’t go as planned.

However, things did go as scripted for Carson. There were no surprises. South’s Eli Julian was the individual winner for the the third year in a row, but Carson was strong, with the scorers finishing second, third, fourth, fifth and ninth.

“This was a taking-care-of-business kind of day, and we knew we should win as long as we did what we needed to do and beat the people we were supposed to beat,” Marchinko said. “We were pretty sharp. The course at Dan Nicholas is not one where you expect to run your fastest times. You’re on grass for a little while, but then you get into the backwoods pretty quick. So I was surprised when I saw the sheet after the race. We ran some strong times, better than I expected. James Anderson had a PR.”

Carson’s Jorge Clemente-Garcia was runner-up in 16:23, 13 seconds behind Julian. Bricen Burleson was third in 16:43. Eric Gillis (4th, 17:12), Anderson (5th, 17:24) and Connor Price (9th, 17:57) were the other Carson scorers.

South put five in the top 13, but Carson still won decisively, 23-39, in what was essentially a two-team race. West Rowan, Salisbury and East Rowan posted team scores, but they were way back.

“Kudos to Carson,”Julian said. “They’re a very good team and they had a great day.”

South’s second runner was Grayson Cromer (6th, 17:33). Ethan Overby (8th, 17:37), Brian Hickman (11th, 18:29) and  Garrison Raper (13th, 18:54).

West’s Ethan Wilson was seventh in 17:34 and was the only runner in the top 10 who wasn’t from Carson or South.

Salisbury soccer star Abdul Eliwa got in a good workout and ran 18:32, good for 12th place. The top dozen runners are deemed all-county.

Marchinko may have been most pleased with Chance Simmons, who was the sixth runner for Carson. Simmons placed 10th. While his score didn’t count directly for Carson, he did have an impact, He finished ahead of a lot of people, including South’s fourth and fifth runners.

“This was a breakout for him,” Marchinko said. “He broke 19 minutes for the first time on Saturday, and then he comes in at 18:14 today. Knock on wood, no one in our top five is going to get sick or get hurt, but Chance gives us some insurance. He’s really coming on.”

Carson hopes to use the taking-care-of-business county championship as a springboard to bigger things. The Cougars hope to challenge Lake Norman Charter in the upcoming South Piedmont Conference Championship at Frank Liske Park. The regional and state meets will follow.

“We’ve got good athletes and we’ve got good kids who have done everything I’ve asked them to do — and then some,” Marchinko said. “Hopefully, we’re going to make some noise.”