The Flying Hawaiian Strikes Again, Wins Wingfoot XC

* Joe Sapone once again went to the tank for some late-race theatrics and won his second straight Wingfoot XC Classic title

Photo Credit: Alison Markham/MileSplit

MileSplit.Live race results

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CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- Four years ago, as a high school freshman competing at the Georgia state cross country championships, Joe Sapone picked up the nickname 'Flying Hawaiian,' as if for no other reason than the fact that he was, well, Hawaiian by blood.  

Perhaps, though, he's finally starting to earn that moniker. 

On Friday, the Atlanta Holy Innocents' Episcopal School senior continued his yearly tradition of winning at the last second, earning his second straight Wingfoot XC Classic victory with another last-ditch sprint to the finish. 

And yes, the Hawaiian-was-a-Flying

This time, however, Sapone was a full 23 seconds better than his junior outing, crossing the tape in a winning-time of 15:06.20, third-best in meet history. Less than a second behind him was Auburn's Maxwell Hardin, who led for much of the race. He finished in 15:07.10.

How does Sapone keep doing it? 

"I don't know, this is an electric race," he said. "But running under the lights, with people running besides you, hay bales, going back there, it kind of feels like a toilet bowl because it swirls back there.

"It's just, this is what cross country is about. Something about this race gets me super amped."

It was an important race for Sapone, who maintains that he's looking for an even stronger postseason in the weeks to come. This was just his second race of the season. It seems within reason that the Georgia-based senior could aim for a national qualification -- pending whatever race he decides to go after. 

He doesn't have that quite figured out just yet, though, he said.  

It should be said, though, just how important this race was for Hardin, too. Nearly a year ago at this point, the Alabama native learned of three stress fractures in his foot, which ended his cross country season. What followed were more injuries over the track campaign. 

Just getting to the line healthy this fall? That's what Hardin wanted. But another part of him knew he had the wherewithal to compete with anyone. So he ran confidently on Friday, pushing the pace and ultimately taking Sapone to his very limits. 

"Up until the last 200 meters, I felt very confident and good," he said. 

* Ruby Little won her second straight Wingfoot XC Classic title on Friday night

Photo Credit: Alison Markham/MileSplit

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Beyond the individual results was an equally-as-good storyline between two on-the-cusp national programs. 

Brentwood (TN) vs. Saint Anthony's (NY) turned out every bit as good as advertised. Only the Tennessee power ran away with it, scoring a blistering 70 points to the Friars' 129. 

They didn't exactly run the New York squad out of the park. But Brentwood certainly made a statement. 

"I feel like this puts us on the national level," Brentwood senior Brody Chapman said. "I think everyone needs treat Brentwood as a contender. We've been off the map and it's time to put Brentwood back on the map. I think that's the goal for all of us." 

Not long after, in the girls race, came another repeat champion. 

While it wasn't as close, Marist (GA) senior Ruby Little maintained her reputation as the Wingfoot XC Queen with her second straight victory, this one coming in a remarkaby identical 18:08.50. That was the same exact time she used to win last year's installment. 

South Forysyth senior Carmel Yonas didn't let Little out of her sights, though, finishing second in 18:13.30, while the next closet competitor, Lambert's Bella Cammarota, finished 20 seconds later in 18:34.30.

The team race wasn't decided until late. 

Alabama title-contender Auburn took the overall win with 106 points, defeating Brentwood, which was second in 115. 

Photos by Alison Markham/MileSplit

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