KERNERSVILLE - As Elkin’s Madeline Carter stood on the starting line of Saturdays’ 1A Cross Country State Championships, her instructions from her coach were simple: “get out fast and get position up front and then settle into a pace you can hold.”
Carter took her coach’s advice.
When the gun sounded to start the race she made a mad dash to put herself in the top ten early on. All-state honors are awarded to the top-ten finishers, so Carter made sure she was in that position early in the race.
“A race of that size and with that many quality girls in it, it is essential you get out good,” coach Dan Merritt explained. “A bad start means you are running for a top ten finish. Your race can be over before it starts as you will spend the rest of the three-mile race trying to catch up, and the girls at the front don’t come back. Madeline executed her start perfectly.”
On a beautiful day at Beeson Park in Kernersville, the state championship race produced great competition and the 5K course yielded fast times.
After missing making All-state last year by one place, Carter’s goal all year had been to capture the coveted honor that had eluded her in 2011.
Throughout this year’s championship race, she found herself moving back and forth between sixth, seventh, and eighth place. As she approached the two-mile mark, All-state honors had all but been secured as ninth and tenth place were more than 10 seconds behind her.
Running the last half-mile as if someone was going to snatch the coveted honor from her, though legs and body exhausted from her effort, she finished strong to capture her year-long goal.
Carter crossed the line in eighth place with a time of 19:39 - a 43-second improvement over her previous best time from last week’s region.
Carter’s time was also a Elkin cross country school record.
“Madeline ran a determined race. She carried out her race strategy perfectly and took her racing to another level. There were a lot of girls who were pretty equal in ability, as only 20 seconds separated her from the runner-up spot. It is more difficult to make all-state in cross country, and I am proud of her accomplishment,” Merritt said.
“Only a sophomore, she has two more years to run for the top spot,” he added.
The race was won by Sophia Bhalla from Lincoln Charter in a time of 18:53. Mount Airy’s Kristen Parries finished third in 19:25 to join Carter as the only Surry County runners to earn all-state honors.
Also competing for Elkin at the state meet was freshman Jacob Parker.
It is rare in cross country for a freshman to qualify as an individual for state competition, which Parker did at last week’s Midwest Regional.
Parker placed 37th Saturday with a personal best time of 17:43. In the 132-man field, he was the second freshman to cross the finish line.
“Jacob had a great season for a freshman. Making all-conference, capturing a regional medal, making it to the state meet, and then being the second fastest freshman in the state is quite an accomplishment in his first year of cross country. He has a bright future in front of him,” Merritt said.
The East Wilkes boys captured a 4th-place team finish at the 1A race. Will Jolly finished fifth to earn all-state honors for the Cardinals.
Carter’s all-state status marked the third-straight year an Elkin runner has earned the highest award. Merritt is confident that streak won’t be broken anytime soon.
“With Madeline having two more years and Jacob having three more years it doesn’t look like the streak will be broken anytime soon,” he added.