Prior to Dec. 8, it had been three years since East Wilkes High School hosted a Mountain Valley 1A/2A Athletic Conference cross country meet.

The Cardinals’ Annika Bell is hoping it won’t be another three. The sophomore capitalized on familiarity with a new course and finished more than a minute and a half faster than her nearest competitor in cool, blustery Ronda.

Bell completed the 3.1-mile track in 24:23, well ahead of North Wilkes’ McKenzie Harrold, who broke the tape at 26:04. Natalie Mathis of North was only three seconds behind Harrold.

In the boys race held concurrently with the girls, West Wilkes senior Austin Triplette posted his first win of the season in convincing fashion. His time of 18:51 was 48 seconds faster than the performance of North Wilkes’ Braeden Foster, the runner up.

“A new course is always a challenge, but my boys handled it like champs,” said Rhiannon Adams, the West coach. “I was super proud of them.”

West was the only team to field enough runners for a team score. Also scoring points for the Blackhawks were Hunter Wayne (third, 20:18), Brantley Duncan (fifth, 22:07), Holt Hanchey (sixth, 23:00) and Rodney Perez-Brasil (seventh, 23:04).

“Hunter with a strong third place, plus Brantley, Holt and Rodney at five, six and seven and Wesley (Furr, 24:13) at nine is always a great way to finish a meet,” said Adams.

Adams added that the West boys are all progressing at the right time and expect to see great things at the conference championship Saturday in Millers Creek. “These boys have a lot of fight in them, and I know without a doubt they will show up with a lot of heart and grit in them next week.”

After Foster, North’s top finisher was Mitch Adams, who was fourth at 21:33.

East was paced by Chance Mastin, who took eighth with a time of 23:36.

Central boys win

Also on Dec. 8, the Wilkes Central boys swept the podium finishes en route to a 24-31 victory over Ashe County in Moravian Falls.

Central’s Jadon Gage notched another runaway win, finishing over two minutes ahead of teammate John Randy (17:30 vs. 19:31). Burch Taylor took third at 19:38 for the Eagle sweep.

Ashe took the next four spots, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Central. Also earning points for the Eagles were Drake Redmon (21:50) and Tate Jolly (23:01).

In the girls race, conference favorite Hazel Pasley of Alleghany took top honors and Elkin won the team title, 33-42 over Ashe County. Central was third with 47 points.

Pasley broke the tape at 19:15, followed by Elkin’s Ava Bledsoe (22:49) and Wilkes Central’s Peyton Gage (23:04).

Other Central runners who cracked the top 15 were Isabelle Curry (seventh, 24:44), Kaelyn Twiggs (12th, 26:25) and Ryleigh Parker (15th, 26:53).

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