Patriot girls win second regional XC title, boys finish fourth
CARY — Franklin Academy’s girls cross country team earned its second consecutive 1A mideast regional championship Saturday with a team score of 41 points and the Patriots Hannah Zenker raced to her second individual title.
Franklin Academy placed three of its girl runners within the top 15 of the individual standings during the 5K course at WakeMed Soccer Complex in Cary.
In the boy’s race, the Patriots finished in fourth place among 18 teams. Both the Franklin Academy girls and boys teams will compete in Saturday’s 1A state meet in Kernersville.
“It was a good day for us,” said Patriot cross country coach Beth Martin. “As a team, it was the girls’ best performance this season as far as average time and gap between the first and fifth runner goes.”
“As for our boys team, with a return ticket to the state meet on the line, they pushed themselves hard and came up victorious,” Martin added.
Raleigh Charter was second in the girls race with 73 points followed by Woods Charter School, Whiteville, Princeton, North Duplin, Voyager Academy, Rosewood, Hobbton High School and River Mill Academy.
The Franklin Academy boys tallied 95 points behind winner Research Triangle High School and Voyager Academy and Raleigh Charter, which came in second and third place, respectively.
Finishing behind the Patriots were Heide Trask, Woods Charter School, River Mill Academy, Rosewood, East Wake Academy, and North Duplin.
The defending champion Zenker was the front runner the entire race and finished a minute ahead of regional runner-up Jenna Janicki of River Mill Academy.
“At the beginning, there were some people who went out really fast but eventually I had the lead for mostly the entire race,” Zenker said.
Zenker said she would have liked her time of 19:45 to have been lower, but overall she felt confident in how she was running.
“I feel like I can do better than what my times are showing,” she said.
“But I was really happy,” Zenker added. “I am really excited for states and hope we will do really well there.”
Last year at the state meet, Zenker said she went out fast and stuck with the main pack.
“So this year I might do the same depending on the competition,” she said.
Jade Ogilvie of Woods Charter battled for third place in the Regionals, just two seconds behind Janicki.
Aly Chura of Franklin Academy ran a solid race and shaved nearly 50 seconds off her conference championship time on the same course just a week ago. She crossed the line in fourth place in 21:03.
Teammate Ally Christopher, a freshman, posted a new best time of 21:58, good enough for 12th place. Kianna Cook ran one of her fastest times of the season for Franklin Academy and ended the race in 22:39, just head of teammate Brittany Henderson, 22:57.
Abby Wade, another freshman, rounded out the top 20 finishers with a time of 23:05.
The Patriots Krista Gilbert had a run time of 26:09.
“The freshmen really stepped up and showed they are ready for big competition,” Martin said.
Justin Martin was the top runner for the Franklin Academy boys. He finished in sixth place overall in 17:29, a new personal best time.
“The boys’ team faced some steep competition from newcomers Research Triangle High School, which is projected to finish high in the state meet,” Martin said.
Franklin Academy’s Matthew Pertz crossed the line in his fastest time of the season, 17:58, and placed 13th.
Senior and first year cross country runner Nick Mazzoleni of Franklin Academy raced to a personal record of 18:33 and was 22nd overall.
The Patriots Aidan Robinson made his debut in regional competition by dropping 50 seconds off his previous best time and breaking the 20 minute barrier with a time of 19:36.
Evan Uhlig rounded out the top five Patriot runners with a time of 19:41.
Kevin Ruiz and Sean Beatty also competed for Franklin Academy and ran the race in 19:59 and 20:26, respectively.
As far as the states, Martin said the girls teams are faster than they were last year at this time.
“We have three freshmen in our top seven,” she said.
Bishop McGuinness is the favorite to win the girls event, according to Martin.
“They are looking stronger than ever and the battle for second is tight and we are in the mix,” she said. “If every girl races her best, we have a good shot at our best finish ever.”
The Franklin Academy boy’s times have improved enough to have a solid short at a top ten finish at the state meet.
“We have more depth than last year and more speed up front,” Martin said. “The faster times at Regionals should also boost the team’s confidence going into the final competition.”