by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — Franklin Academy’s girls and boys cross country teams raced to first place in Tuesday’s meet at Wendell Park.
The Patriots were joined by East Wake Academy and Kestrel Heights.
Justin Martin of Franklin Academy took the lead from the start and never looked back to cross the finish line first in 17:53. In second place was Matthew Pertz in 19:26.
The Patriots' Nick Mazzoleni and Kevin Ruiz also competed well.
“The guys team worked together to finish strong as a team,” said Franklin Academy coach Beth Martin.
The Franklin Academy girls were led by Hannah Zenker, who was the top girl with a time of 19:28.
“The race was run with the guys and girls racing together and Hannah kept pace with the guys in the lead pack,” Martin said.
Aly Chura finished in 21:00 for Franklin Academy.
“We were missing three of our fastest girls today, so the others really had to step up and they showed that they could,” Martin said.
Brittany Henderson nearly broke 23:00 and Kianna Cook ran a solid time of 23:41. Mid-pack runners for the Patriots included Krista Gilbert, 25:41, and Brooke Gupton, 25:43.
“They worked together successfully to better their times too,” Martin said.
Zenker also paced the Franklin Academy girls to a first place finish in last Thursday’s North Central Athletic Conference cross country meet.
She was the fastest girl and finished the Flaherty Park course in 21:59.
Chura was second in 22:29 and teammate Ally Christopher completed the top three Franklin Academy sweep with a time of 2:39.
“Hannah and Aly set the pace early in the race and led throughout,” Martin said.
Franklin Academy finished ahead of Raleigh Charter, Kestrel and Roxboro Community.
Henderson, 23:19, and Abby Wade, 23:55 improved their times and ran a strong race.
“Their times sealed the deal on victory against Raleigh Charter,” Martin said. “The Raleigh Charter girls are the only team which has beaten our girls in conference meets this season.”
“The top five girls continue to improve in closing the gap between them, but we still need to bring our sixth and seventh runners close to the pack to be more effective in post season racing,” Martin added.
Two runners for the Patriots, Bree Smith and Rachael Sliver, ran their best times ever.
Martin said Gabby Rudiak and Miranda Alvarez both improved their times too.
Raleigh Charter won the boys competition, followed by Franklin Academy, Roxboro Community and Kestrel.
Aaron Frisbie of Roxboro crossed the finish line first in 18:41.
“We were without two of our scoring runners plus our two lead runners backed off their normal pace to prepare for an invitational this weekend, so that put us at an automatic disadvantage,” Martin said.
“It also gave some of our younger runners a chance to step up and push themselves,” Martin added.
The Franklin Academy boys who made improvements included Shayan Dolikhani, 2:13; Aidan Robinson, 22:25; Tucker Monroe, 22:35; Jacob Naegele, 22:36; and Paul Anderson, 23:49.
Nick Whitmer, 25:09; John Church, 25:57; Blake Rhodes, 26:09 and Nick Evangelista, 26:13 also bettered their times.
“They all made notable improvements in times on our home course, which tends to be more challenging than most of the courses we run,” Martin said.
“Overall, we were pleased with how the guys pushed themselves and how our mid pack runners could step up and perform when needed,” Martin added.
The meet was the last home race for Franklin Academy and the seniors were honored with a team dinner.
Senior runners include: Chura, Anne Church, Maddie Furr, Marina Nicol, Kristin Slaybaugh, Ian Christine, Evangelista, Mazzoleni, Evan Uhlig and Jeffrey Venable.
The Patriots will compete in the conference meet on Friday, Oct. 18 at Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary.