Cross country men, women advance to state

Sophomore Dylan Shamburger trudged his way through a mud-covered trail to a top-10 finish at the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference meet last month.

Shamburger fought off the heavy rain and slick trails to help lead his team to a second place finish at Western Carolina University. This wasn’t the first time Shamburger had led his team to a top-five finish this season.

“It was like running through a swamp because it had rained a ton before the race,” Shamburger said. “The team had a good race, and we beat East Henderson.”

The men’s and women’s cross country runners attribute much of their success to strong chemistry. Team members have been running together since middle school, and they continue to run together outside of the season as well.

“I like how the team is close to each other every year,” senior Brittney Naef said. “We all get along with each other, and we’re always helping each other out. If someone is struggling in practice, we’ll support them and cheer them on to keep going.”

The teams worked hard this season to improve their times from last year. A number of them set new personal records.

The men’s team saw strong contributions from Shamburger with a personal best of 16:29, and sophomore Aaron Speyer with a personal record of 17:40.
Senior Brittney Naef helped carry the women’s team and competed her way to a top-10 ranking with a time of 20:26.

“The cross country season has gone really well for both the men’s and women’s teams,” sophomore Brandan Naef said. “We climbed our way to the top of the conference rankings, and we competed hard at the regionals meet.”

The teams continued their success in the regional meet at Jackson Park. The women’s team finished fourth while the men’s team finished second. Brittney Naef placed eighth and Shamburger placed fourth. The teams went on to a the state meet in Kernersville on Nov. 1.

Both the men’s and women’s teams finished 15th at the 3A state meet. The runners battled cold weather, rain and a dangerously muddy and slippery course.

Freshman Jarod Connell, sophomores Dominic Kurz, Shamburger and Speyer; juniors Colby Sousa and Zach Raymer; and senior Elliot Turner competed at state for the men’s team while freshman Lauren Kilby, junior Olivia Hogan and seniors Amy Turlington, Emily Bayless, Katie Kennedy, Summer Wongchong and Naef ran for the women’s team.

Head Coach James Galloway said he was proud of the accomplishments of both teams.

“Both teams worked extremely hard throughout the season and earned their spots at the state meet,” Galloway said. “It was a good season, and I’m proud of how much we improved this year.”

Turlington has been on the team since her sophomore year. According to Turington, this is the best season the woman have had during her career, and she liked how the team surprised everyone when we came out on top.

“I am proud of our team. We were ranked fifth going into regionals, and we ended up one point away from third place. This just shows how hard we worked,” she said.

By Josh Conner

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