MARION — Both of Watauga’s cross-country teams sent an early message to the rest of the Northwestern Conference that the Pioneers are serious about winning league championships.
The Pioneers dominated the boys’ and girls’ races at the NWC Conference Kickoff held at McDowell High after both teams scored the minimum amount of points, which is the goal of any cross-country team.
The Watauga girls’ team went first and captured the top eight finishes in the race, which left the Pioneers with the minimum possible 15 points. Hickory was second with 75 points and Alexander Central was third with 91 points. Avery County, which is not a member of the NWC but was allowed to run in the event, was sixth with 155 points.
Watauga senior Sophia Ritter, who missed the Pioneer Clash of the Classes, won the Conference Kickoff with a time of 13 minutes, 45 seconds. Ritter was the only runner to finish the 2.1-mile course in less than 14 minutes.
Another senior, Rebecca Anderson, was second with a time of 14:43. Gwendolyn Anderson, a freshman, was third with a time of 14:47.
Watauga’s Riley Fowler was the fourth runner to cross the finish line in less than 15 minutes when she posted a time of 14:56. Olivia McAnulty was fifth with a time of 15:03 and Sophie Beach was sixth with time of 15:07.
Isabelle Broman-Fulks was seventh with a time of 15:09 and Lena Miller was eighth with a time of 15:09. Alexander Central’s Camella Church was the first non-Pioneer to reach the finish line, crossing the barrier in ninth place with a time of 15:15.
The Watauga boys’ team, which had the top seven finishers in the race, also posted a minimum 15 points. St. Stephens was second with 86 and Hickory was third with 104 points. As in the girls’ race, the Avery boys’ team ran in the event and finished sixth with 138 points.
Watauga’s Avery Cannon picked up his second win of the season with a time of 11:58. Cannon, who also won the Clash of the Classes, was the only runner to finish in less than 12 minutes.
Watauga freshman Gavin Sweeney was second with a time of 12:02. Ethan Turner, who was second in the Clash of the Classes, was third with a time of 12:18. Caleb Coatney was fourth with a time of 12:19, Caleb Cox was fifth with a time of 12:20 and Korben Anderson was sixth with a time of 12:23.
Rein Freeman was seventh with a time of 12:33. Ethan Cannon turned in a time of 12:51 to finish 12th and Will Curtis added a 14th place finish with a time of 13:09.