State Championship Notes From The Weekend

This weekend, our sole focus was on state competition. About two handfuls of states took to their state championship courses over the past few days, and as we learned, not everything went to plan. Check out how some of the country's top talent performed this weekend. 

- - - 

1. It was a big day for Sasha Neglia and her Dobyns Bennett High School squad at the TSSAA State Cross Country Championships in Nashville. The University of North Carolina commit, who had won two state cross country championships as a freshman and sophomore, was last year's Division I race leader until the final few meters, when a wrong turn disqualified her at the finish. But this year she left no doubt, unseating the state's No. 1 runner entering the contest, Science Hill's Jenna Hutchins, and Neglia powered through a muddy course to win in 17:22.90. Better yet, her Dobyns Bennett girls program won their first state team title since 1997, scoring 60 points. Hutchins, meanwhile, got into a foot-race with Fred Page's Leigh Walters in the final moments and finished third in 17:54.95. Walters earned runner-up in 17:51.76. Meanwhile, in the boys race, Division I favorite Silas Winders held off a strong race from Chester County's Evan Allen to win in 15:28.98, scooping up his first state title after finishing 14th a year ago. 

2. It was Marlee's day. Northern High School senior and NC State commit Marlee Starliper won her third straight Class AA win, producing a state record time of 17:10.90. on Hershey's Parkview course, which was modified after rain on the facility in previous days. That effort, a 161 speed rating, was her best of the season and left no doubt over runner-up Taryn Parks, who was second in 18:06.6. Mia Cochran won the large school girls race in a battle over Emily Carter and Jenna Mulhern. Meanwhile, in the boys Class AAA field, Mt. Lebanon's Patrick Anderson finished off a quality regular season with a state win, posting a time of 15:25.6, which produced a 195 speed rating. Downington West's boys took the large school team title over LaSalle College. 

3. A little bit of chaos took place in Indiana, with the Fort Wayne Carroll girls -- one of the state's pre-season favorites -- earning the overall team win at the IHSAA State Cross Country Championships in a widely competitive race, scoring 101 points. Zionsville Community was second, Carmel was third, Fishers was fourth and Columbus North was fifth. Only two girls broke 18 minutes in the girls race, with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger's Erin Strzelecki winning in 17:22.90, while Edgewood's Annalyssa Crain was second in 17:44.50. The boys race was just as chaotic, with Lowell's Gabriel Sanchez surprising the field with a win in 15:28.70, beating Highland's Lucas Guerra and pre-race favorite Luke Combs of Lapel. 

4. Georgia is wild. With a ridiculous amount of class races, it would take days to piece through. But here are the main particulars on the boys side: Class 7A's Myles Collins won in 15:46.20, in a completely solo effort; Class 1A Private School athlete Graham Blanks (above), of Athens Academy, was downright dirty with the state's fastest time, 15:33; and Class 4A winner, Justin Wachtel, set Friday's top time with an effort of 16:05.00. 

5. In Michigan's the state's favorites all showed up in a big way. In Division I, Plymouth's Carter Solomon found his first win, crossing the finish with a top time of 15:01.20, while Ann Arbor Pioneer's culminated her dominant regular season with a win in 17:00.40. In Division 2, East Grand Rapid's Evan Bishop secured his own title, too, winning in 15:12.60, while his teammate on the girls' side, Ann Petr, once again outlasted Lansing Catholic's Jaden Theis for a narrow in, scoring a time of 17:59.60, to Theis' 18:02.70. And in Division 4, Abby Vanderkooi cruised to her second straight team title. But looking beyond the state championships, it will also be interesting to see what the girls teams of Ann Arbor Pioneer and East Grand Rapids choose to do at national regional races. Both were spectacular on Saturday, earning dominant wins. But because Michigan does not allow teams to form through national competition -- programs would risk ineligibility over the spring if they chose to run as teams -- there's a chance these efforts were the last from two of the Midwest's top teams. 

6. Edina High School head girls coach Matt Gabrielson called his team's win on Saturday at the MSHSL's Class AA State XC Championships "Maybe our best state race ever," and it's hard to argue after the Hornets put together an 18-second spread across an 18:40 average, scoring a dominant 55 points to beat Wayzata, defending champs STMA, Alexandria and Stillwater.  Only one runner scored in the top 10 -- Maggie Wagner was 10th overall -- but its next four runners were all in by the next 17 places. Projected contender Stillwater struggled, though its top runner, Analee Weaver, won the race in 17:46.10. Wayzata's superb freshman, Abbey Nechanicky was second overall in 17:52.80. The boys race, meanwhile, saw Mounds View cap off its season with another state win, narrowly beating Eden Prairie by just one point. While the squad had a slightly slower average, the team's 22-second spread was incredibly useful. Roy Griak winner Oliver Paleen, of Saint Paul Highland Park, scored his first Class AA win, posting a time of 15:25.20. 

7. Falmouth High School's Sofie Matson, a two-time Maine Class A State XC Championship winner, posted her third straight victory on Saturday on a course she set a meet record on last week, winning in 17:52.02 -- which was just a second off the time she posted at regionals. Mud and slick grass contributed to a slightly slower race by Matson, though she was over a minute faster than the second-place runner, leaving no doubt. 

8. The nation's No. 3 girls team, Beavercreek High School, scored its top four runners in the top 10 and its fifth scored a PR, helping the Beavers to a resounding win at the OHSAA State Cross Country Championships with 55 points, which was their second straight state title in Division I. Senior Taylor Ewert, scored her second straight title, posting a course record in 17:22.50, while senior Savannah Roark was second in 17:48.6. Senior Jodie Pierce was seventh in 18:02.90 and junior Juliann Williams was ninth in 18:11.90. Senior Kendall Hobbs finished 55th in 19:16.50. Meanwhile, in a ridiculous battle between two nationally-ranked runners in Division II, it was Shelby's Caleb Brown who edged Defiance's Mhalicki Bronson at the finish, winning a state title in 15:05.00 -- the fastest boys time of the day. Bronson was second in 15:13.20. In Division I, Matt Duvall scored his first state title after finishing in 23rd a year prior. 

9. Conard High School. sophomore Gavin Sherry posted his first CIAC Open State Cross Country Championship win, beating Notre Dame commit Robbie Cozean with a time of 15:38.00, earning a speed rating of 190. The finish made it nine straight wins for Sherry over the season and redeemed his runner-up performance in the meet last year.