WEST JEFFERSON — For their third year, the Ashe County Running Huskies are Mountain Valley Athletic Conference champions.
The MVAC Championship cross country meet brought together the conference’s eight teams for a head-to-head race to the finish line at Ashe County High School Tuesday, Oct. 22. After 5000 meters, both of the ACHS cross country teams, boys and girls, secured first place.
Overall, the girls team scored 41 points during the race, followed by Wilkes Central with 50 points, Elkin with 60 points, West Wilkes with 95 points and North Wilkes with 125 points. The first Husky to cross the finish line was Mahaley Cronk in third pace with a time of 21:01.6. In sixth place was Malorie Eller with a time of 22:39.6, and Zoe Schell finished at 23:48.4 in 11th place.
For the boys team, the Huskies totaled 47 points, outscoring their closest challenger, West Wilkes, by 20 points. Overall, West Wilkes scored 67 points, followed by Elkin and North Wilkes with 96 points, Wilkes Central with 123 points, Alleghany with 139 points and Starmount with 145 points.
The Huskies’ first finisher for the boys team was Eli Randolf, crossing the finish line in fifth place at 18:14.9. Grady Rector wasn’t far behind, finishing in eighth place with a time of 18:31.8. Josh Roten, Noah Farmer and Conner Howell then secured 11th, 13th and 14th places, respectively.
“We competed against everybody in the conference a couple of times throughout the season,” Coach Shane Greene said. “The first meet, West Wilkes boys beat our boys by just a few points, but after that we won every time we raced, so I did expect to win.”
Spanning the course of the season, Greene, coaching the team alongside his wife MaryBeth, said he has been happy seeing all of the runners continue to develop their skills, shaving off seconds from their times and setting new personal bests.
“We had a lot who really stepped up,” Greene said. “I’m really happy with their progress.”
Junior Josh Roten had been trying to break 20 minutes since joining the cross country team, Greene said. He came close in the 2018 season, finishing with a time of 20:01. This season, Roten started faster than the previous year, but Greene said he was still stuck lingering around 20 minutes. At the Hagan Stone Invitational, he finally broke 20 minutes, finishing with a time of 18:56, then went on to beat that time in a local 5K with a time of 18:33, Greene said.
On the girls team, Greene said seniors Cronk, Schell and Eller have been dependable throughout all four years of their time with the Running Huskies. Greene also noted freshmen Abby McClure and Sherry Billings for their help in securing a Huskies win.
“It takes five to score as a team, and with their times, they really made the difference,” Greene said.
The vast majority of the Huskies’ returning runners finished with faster times than they have in the past, Greene said, adding that it can be difficult to improve on personal records after running for a few years.
“We’re hoping to get that across the board at regionals,” Greene said.
The Running Huskies will be traveling to Dobson, N.C., to compete in the NCHSAA 2A Midwest Regional at Fisher River Park Saturday, Nov. 2. For the past two seasons, both teams qualified to compete in the state championship, and Greene said the team is looking for similar results this season.