War Eagle runners among 3,000 in cross country ‘meet of the year’

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, September 15, 2022

It was billed as “the meet of the year” by those that follow the high school cross country scene in North Carolina, and those that attended the Friday Night Lights extravaganza at Kernersville’s Ivey Redmon Park did not leave disappointed. Ninety-Nine schools from North Carolina and Virginia, nearly 3,000 runners and thousands of spectators witnessed something truly amazing. Music filled the air, fireworks exploded overhead and 10 races over a period of four hours showed why you have to experience high school cross country to fully understand how special the sport truly is.

Davie was represented by 33 athletes spread over five of the 10 races with several of them competing in a high school cross country meet for the first time. The varsity boys competed in the Invitational Division under the lights in one of the featured races and came away with a 10th-place finish among the 32 schools registering team scores. The lone senior on the War Eagle roster, Owen Sulecki, paced the Davie effort with a new personal record (PR) time of 17:30 to claim 34th place in a field of nearly 300 finishers. Tyler Hill was next in 40th with a PR of 17:36, while sophomore Thomas Essic was hot on his heels with a PR of 17:46 and a 48th-place finish. Ethan Lakey continued his strong freshman campaign by claiming 75th in 18:11, while fellow freshman Logan Zuleger rounded out the scoring with a huge PR of 19:28 to finish 138th. That time was 55 seconds faster than his debut two weeks ago at the Providence Invitational.

Will Allard was the next Davie finisher in 20:00 and was followed by a trio of War Eagles who all registered personal best times.  Jackson Sulecki crossed the line in 20:11, followed by Aric Boles (20:13) and Slade Keaton (21:36). Chris Devicente was Davie’s final varsity runner clocking in at 22:08. In all, seven of the 10 Davie runners in the varsity race turned in all-time best performances.    

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In the varsity girls race, Davie elected to enter just three runners but each of them turned in excellent performances. Freshman Lexi Marion again led the way with a 45th-place finish in 21:56, a time that was 59 seconds faster than her debut effort two weeks earlier. Gracie Spicer ran her second-best-ever time over the 5k distance as she finished 54th with a time of 22:20. Raelyn Lankford also had a strong performance as she crossed the line in 25:05, which was nearly a minute faster than her time earlier this season. The girls did not register a team score as they did not have five entries in the race.

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Freshman Riley McNeil was the lone entry in the JV race.  Her time of 25:21 was a significant improvement of 1:44 off her previous best. Davie also had several entries in the two-mile developmental race with several of them experiencing a high school race for the first time. Stella Frye, Brianna Givens, Jordan Kistner, Isabell Kittleson, Emilia Marks, Clara Phelps, Maggie Smith and Reily York all completed the race for the War Eagles.

Davie was represented by six runners in the boys JV race with four of them turning in PR’s. Freshman Brayden Kistner made his debut and led the War Eagle effort with a time of 20:47. Next across the line were sophomores Noah Shore (21:10) and Adam Brown (21:18), who each turned in personal-best times. Freshman Caswell Moore was next in 21:35, an improvement of 1:06 from his previous best. Hayden Key (22:10) and Jake Hannah (23:50) were the other Davie JV entries. Davie was represented in the developmental boys two-mile race by Wade Bomar (ninth in 14:30), Jacob Patton, Tristen Rissew and JD Cunningham.

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“This was an amazing event and most of our runners consider FNL to be the meet they most enjoy during the season,” said coach Rob Raisbeck. “Eight of the top 10 individual boys in the state and most of the top girls were present. We also got a look at the Cuthbertson girls team who are currently ranked No. 6 in the country. It’s really amazing to see so many talented young people in the same place at the same time.

“Coach (Jeff) Jones and I thought our kids ran very well from top to bottom. We had seven PR’s among our 10 varsity boys as well as four more personal bests among our six guys in the JV race. We have a bunch of freshmen showing dramatic improvement in only a few weeks. Our three girls in the varsity race all ran well with Lexi having a great race.  And Riley McNeil had a huge improvement in the JV race. We ran her in that race purposely since it was only her second race, but she will run the varsity races the rest of the way.”

The War Eagles return to action Sept. 17 at the Hare and Hounds Invitational in Charlotte. “This is the first time we have run this meet,” said Raisbeck. “There will be over 70 teams there from multiple states and we are interested to see how much we have improved after opening the season on the same McAlpine Park course we raced at in late August.”