Wilkes Central’s Jadon Gage and East Wilkes’ Annika Bell turned in the fastest cross country times last week in preseason Mountain Valley 1A/2A Athletic Conference meets held Nov. 17 and Nov. 18 at West Wilkes High School.

Jadon, a senior first-year runner, completed the 5,000-meter course in 18:04 on Nov. 17, besting the second-fastest runner — Ashe County’s Eli Randolph — by a minute and 23 seconds. Hunter Wayne of West Wilkes was third at 19:30.

West’s Austin Triplette was keeping close pace behind Gage when he lost his right shoe as the course transitioned from grass to the student parking lot. Undaunted, he continued in second place for a stretch before dropping out of the race.

“Austin should have stopped and put (his shoe) on, in hindsight, but he didn’t want to lose sight of the WC kid (Gage),” explained West Coach Rhiannon Adams, who is Triplette’s mother.

After Gage, Central was paced by Hamilton Taylor (fifth, 20:19) and Johnie Randy (sixth, 20:24).

Ashe came out on top in the team standings Nov. 17 with 30 points. Central was second with 41 points and West had 63 after Triplette’s misfortune. Alleghany did not field enough runners for a team score.

Peyton Gage, a freshman, was clocked at 24:01 and finished 46 seconds ahead of Ashe County’s Claudia Acevedo. Central’s Isabelle Curry (26:07) and Kaelyn Twiggs (26:19) were sixth and seventh, respectively.

“I am indeed proud of Jadon and Peyton,” said Eagle Coach Colby Shell. “Not every day you get a brother-sister combo on your team like that.”

Ashe placed two other girls in the top five en route to a team-leading 24 points. Central was second with 35 points and West Wilkes, with only two finishers (Katelyn Cothren and Kyley Brindle), didn’t qualify for a team score.

On Nov. 18 in Millers Creek, Annika Bell of East Wilkes won the girls race with a time of 23:06, the fastest girls result over the two-day pre-conference meet. The sophomore finished 43 seconds ahead of her closest competitor, Elkin’s Ava Bledsoe.

“I thought Annika paced herself really well,” said East Coach Will Jolly. “She was able to get off to a good start near the front and work her way into the lead throughout the race. I liked to see that she was at her own pace near the end and was able to create separation while in the lead.”

North Wilkes freshman Natalie Mathis finished third with a time of 24:57. North’s McKenzie Harrold took eighth, crossing the finish line at 27:35.

Braedon Foster of North placed first in the boys lineup on Nov. 18, clocking in at 19:33. The junior was 14 seconds quicker than the runner-up, Jack Zamudio of Elkin.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the team yesterday,” said North Coach Blake Johnston. “Braedon, Natalie, and Mitch (Adams, sixth, 22:25) had solid performances. Overall, each runner had a good day.”

He said it was good for the freshmen to get their first taste of high school competition. “They were excited and anxious at the same time to get the first meet and initial jitters out of the way. The youth of this team really impressed me on Wednesday.”

Johnston added that host West Wilkes “put on a well-run meet that went smoothly and timely. It was a good experience. Thanks to them.”

East Wilkes was paced by Riley Cannon (10th, 24:54) and Chance Mastin (11th, 25:21).

“I was overall very proud of all my runners yesterday,” said Jolly. “Four of my six had never ran in an XC meet before so it was good to see them have that experience. For those who are new to the sport, this gives them a time to focus on and improve throughout the remainder of the season.”

Elkin won both team standings by default on Nov. 18, being the only school to field at least five runners in each field.

Jolly added, “I reminded all of my runners that they will hopefully see this course once again in December (for the conference meet on Dec. 19) and I look forward to seeing how they can all improve next time around.”

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