Lexington cross country teams seek state championship sweep

Posted 11/9/23

Lexington High School’s cross country teams will have the opportunity to do something during Saturday’s state championship meet that just two schools have accomplished at the 5A level.

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Lexington cross country teams seek state championship sweep


Lexington High School’s cross country teams will have the opportunity to do something during Saturday’s state championship meet that just two schools have accomplished at the 5A level.

Both the boys and girls teams will have the opportunity this weekend at Newberry College to secure the 5A state title after making it through the qualifying meet last week. For the girls, it would be their second consecutive championship. For the boys, it would be their first title since 2012.

“It would be certainly incredible for the two teams to win at the same time because there's a lot of friendships across the two teams and there's a lot of support,” boys coach Sam Oxley said. “I know the girls have worked just as hard as we have at this point, but I think it would validate our claim of being like one of the best programs in the state.”

Only two other 5A programs have accomplished this feat before. Riverside did it first in 2016 and Dorman was the most recent, doing so in 2018. Lexington won both championships in 2012 when the school was still 4A. 

The championship meet is the culmination of a journey for both teams. Throughout the season both coaches said their teams had their share of success and failure. 

The girls are looking to go back-to-back and accomplish all three of their preseason goals. The team has already captured the county and region titles. All that is left is states. 

“We all just have the same three goals that we've had the last four years,” girls head coach Tanner Graham said. “The region championship, that really puts you in a good position, especially when you're going up against such a great team in Chapin. Chapin always has a really strong team, and so to be able to beat them in region really gave us that confidence that we needed heading into this final November push.”

It wasn’t a perfect season for the Wildcats though. In a regular season meet at Newberry the team had one of its worst performances, said Graham. With both the state qualifier and final meets being held at Newberry, Graham challenged his team to bounce back. 

“I told the girls all week that our goal was to go out, make a statement, kind of redeem ourselves and reestablish ourselves as a force in the state,” Graham said. “They took to that message. They went after it, they competed, they tried to stay with each other, and that was one of the biggest things that I was proud of.”

The Lexington girls finished first in the state qualifier. The team ran with an average pace of 19 minutes and 34 seconds. The Wildcats placed five runners in the top 10.

Kendra Miles ran the fastest time for the team, finishing fifth overall at 19 minutes and 20 seconds. Her teammate Elanorah Patangan finished right behind her with a time of 19 minutes and 24 seconds. Then, spots eight through 10 were all held by Wildcats after Ava Kanitkar, Lydia Metz and Sophie Potts all finished within 10 seconds of each other. 

“The message is really just to stay together, to continue to push each other,” Graham said. “One of the biggest things I've been pressing this year is that our third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh place runners need to try to stay as close to one and two as they can.”

The boys team finished in fifth place at the state qualifier. Oxley said the team was pacing itself for the championship run.

“What I instructed them to do was to run in a very controlled manner,” Oxley said. “We probably went like 75% effort because all we had to do was simply place in the top eight teams, so we knew that we wanted to leave some gas left in the tank.”

Senior William Cronin finished with the fastest time at the meet for the Wildcats, finishing 16 minutes and 52 seconds into the race. Cronin is in his first season with the team after primarily playing for the swim team. 

Jesse Oates and Connor Forche were the team’s two other top-25 finishers at the qualifying meet. 

Winning a state title would be redemption after the boys snapped its decade-plus region championship streak by narrowly losing to Chapin by a single point. 

“It was disappointing. We were a little bit shocked because, first of all, we don't like to lose ever, and secondly, at home was a little bit more of a sting,” Oxley said. “A 15-year streak of winning the region championships, all of that got snapped by a single point. We tried to figure out what was the blame there. There were a couple of bad performances that were in there, but again, we use that as a motivating factor.”

Winning states would also achieve the season-long goal for Oxley and his team. From the beginning, they had plans to be in this moment. 

“The Lakers were up 2-0 in the series of the NBA Finals, and Kobe responded with ‘What’s there to be happy about? Jobs not finished,’” Oxley said. “Since about mid-September, we've been saying, ‘Job’s not finished.’ That's been my message to these guys that yeah, we've had some great successes, and we've had some shocking disappointments. But Saturday, Nov. 11, the job will be finished.”

The season will end on Saturday regardless of the outcome. Both teams plan to give it their all with hopes of making a statement about their school. 

“I always like to say we're sort of the epicenter of the state with cross country,” Oxley said. “We're just a mark of consistency.”


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