MORGANTON — Avery Cannon and Gavin Sweeney led the Watauga boys’ cross-country team to a 3-A west regional championship at the Freedom High School 5K course Nov. 2.
The Watauga girls’ also won the 3-A regional championship. It is the first time that both Watauga programs have won the regional in the same year since 1998. It is the first time the boys have won since 2006 and the girls’ team won it for the second straight year and in 2010.
Cannon, a senior, won the race with a time of 16 minutes flat. Sweeney, a sophomore, followed Cannon to finish second with a time of 16:22.
“He ran a beautiful race,” Watauga coach Randy McDonough said. “The other boys fell in behind him.”
Ethan Turner was eighth overall with a time of 16:40 and Caleb Cox was fourth with a time of 16:59. Korben Anderson finished 14th overall with a time of 17:00. Caleb Coatney missed the race because of an illness.
“They all ran beautifully,” McDonough said. “Avery ran with the pack until about 1,200 (feet) to go and he really turned it on and beat everybody by a lot.”
McDonough said the boys’ team is “on paper” one of the top three teams in the state.
A cold morning is expected to descend on the state meet, which could work to Watauga’s advantage.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be a bit of our weather,” McDonough said. “It’s looking like it’s going to be about 33 degrees to 35 degrees. We’ll have to see. It’s important to say that everybody else is going to come to play, but for our guys, I think it’s one less thing they have to focus on because they’ve been running in it the last two weeks.”
Watauga finished with 37 points, easily winning the team competition over second-place T.C. Roberson, which finished with 107 points. Asheville was third with 152 points and St. Stephens was fourth with 159 points.
Watauga’s girls’ team also won with 30 points. The Pioneers had six runners finish in the top 10.
Watauga’s Olivia McAnulty finished fourth in the event with a time of 20:10. Lena Miller was fifth with a time of 20:19, Gwendolyn Anderson was sixth with a time of 20:21, Sidra Miller was seventh with a time of 20:22 and Riley Fowler was eighth with a time of 20:26.
Watauga’s Sophie Beach was 10th with a time of 20:30. Watauga was without Sophia Ritter, who missed the race because of illness, and Rebecca Anderson, who was out because of an injured foot.
Jonna Strange of North Iredell won the race with a time of 17:54. She was the only runner to break the 18-minute mark. Mary Elizabeth Shoop of A.C. Reynolds was second with a time of 19:52.
A.C. Reynolds finished second in the team totals with 49 points. Asheville was third with 127 and T.C. Roberson was fourth with 145 points.
“The A.C. Reynolds coach challenged his girls and they went after our girls,” McDonough said. “Coming through the first two miles they were actually in front. Our girls didn’t panic. They just kept running their race and started to pass the A.C. Reynolds girls.”
McDonough said that “on paper” Watauga’s girls’ team could finish as high as fourth through seventh.
“I always tell the kids that they’re not going to give away the trophy just by walking in,” McDonough said. “Those other teams have to go in and earn it.”
Both Watauga teams will run in the state meet, which is Nov. 9 in Kernersville. The top six boys’ teams and the top five girls’ teams from each regional and the top seven runners from each regional who did not run for a qualifying team will run in the state meet.