The Thomas Sumter Academy and Wilson Hall cross country teams shined in the Wilson Hall Invitational at Patriot Park SportPlex on Wednesday, but it was a runner from Manning High School who stole the show.
Sebastian Dozier finished first overall …
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Sebastian Dozier finished first overall for the Monarchs in the boys meet, turning in a 5-kilometer time of 18 minutes, :22.39 seconds.
Three TSA runners finished in the top seven, including Josh Fugate, the reigning Hines Furniture/The Sumter Item Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Fugate finished in third with a time of 19:11.68.
"I've never seen a kid that works as hard as Josh," said TSA head coach Rob Coursey. "Day in, day out, he doesn't take a break. "Josh is a phenomenal leader. You couldn't ask for a better student-athlete than Josh Fugate."
Sam Lawing was fifth for the Generals, while Cameron Dixon finished seventh.
The TSA boys finished second overall, while Wilson Hall finished third, Manning sixth, and Laurence Manning Academy seventh.
It was an extremely hot and humid day on the course, but nothing these runners aren't used to at this point.
"The heat has been insane all year long," said Coursey "I don't think we've had a race all year where we hadn't had a humidity issue. We've had to kinda adjust our training due to the weather."
Wilson Hall has had its own struggles with the heat, but considers itself lucky to have been able to still get in its training after several weather-related-issue cancellations last year.
"The heat is an issue," said Wilson Hall head coach Jerry Roth II. "Last year we had to cancel a lot of practices and races. The key has been that we've actually been able to get all of our practices in this season. The kids kinda sacrificed their summer. Our two seniors took a leadership role and got the kids (to summer workouts). We've trained and built our endurance, so now we're able to handle the heat."
It helps that both teams were competing at Patriot Park, a place with which both are very familiar.
"We train there all the time," said Coursey. "Our kids know that course like the back of their hands. They know where I'm going to be on the course. I know where their weaknesses are or where they can kinda take advantage of Coach not being around."
On the girls side, Thomas Sumter Academy seventh-grader Reese Distelzweig won her second race of the year after winning at Lakewood on Sept. 10. Her winning time of 22:36.73 was 17 seconds faster than her time at Lakewood.
Wilson Hall's Molly Moss finished second overall with a time of 23:33.09. Moss raced out to the lead in the first mile, but Distelzweig caught her between miles 1 and 2. Moss held on for second place, outpacing Distelzweig's teammate Kaci McBrayer, who had finished in second place at Lakewood.
"Molly has done the work," said Roth II. "She's put the work in over the summer. I was excited for her. It's her senior year, and she got second place. I know she'd like to win it, but I'm absolutely proud of her."
The Lady Barons placed four runners in the top 11, while TSA finished with three runners in the top seven.
"Third place for boys and girls is definitely good," said Roth. "We were very proud of all of the runners that ran yesterday. We have a young team, and they are motivated, excited, and every year I'm looking for them to cut off some time. I think we're going to be dangerous."
The TSA girls team finished first overall, Hammond finished second and Wilson Hall took third place.
"We knew that Hammond was going to be really good," said Coursey. "We saw them last week at Lakewood, and they actually beat us pretty handily. We were very focused this week. We look at Wilson Hall as our crosstown rival. We had a great week of focused practice and wanted to take the opportunity to show them we're here to run; we're not going to let that happen again."
The Lady Generals were perhaps the most impressive team on the course on Wednesday. Led by a quartet of seventh-graders, and a freshman, the TSA girls team is primed for a bright future.
"We're young and we're small," said Coursey. "We've taken them to some lower key meets this year just to get them acclimated. I think we haven't really started looking at peaking yet. We're going to peak right at regionals and state finals and give the best that we possibly can."
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