Nine months ago, it was masks, mittens and balaclavas in Moravian Falls.

On Sept. 7, the cross country runners at Wilkes Central High School had shed all of the above, competing in warm 80-degree weather.

It was a stark contrast to the 40-degree conditions many of the same racers faced in December 2020, when the fall season was delayed due to COVID-19.

The temperature was quite dissimilar, but the team results were the same—the Central boys and girls came out on top in the team standings of the nonconference meet.

The Eagle boys finished with 25 points, ahead of Ashe County’s 32 (fewer points mean better finishes for the school’s top five runners). North Wilkes and West Wilkes had fewer than five finishers and did not qualify for team scores.

Ashe’s Noah Farmer won the boys race, completing the 5,000-meter course in 19:09. Two Eagles—Quinn Pyke, at 19:14, and Sean Wilson, with a time of 19:41—took the other two podium finishes.

“I was proud of some veteran leadership, as Drake Redmon and Nick Hall both had great races,” said Colby Shell, the Eagle coach. “Drake set a new personal best (20:55) and really finished strong to help secure a good finish (fifth). Nick actually beat the fifth runner from Ashe (to finish 11th), so even though he is our six man his big race (23:33) helped grow our lead.”

Shell added, “Sean also had another big day. As a newcomer this year he is really learning quickly and stapling himself as a top five runner at conference.”

Also earning points as top-five team runners for the Eagles were Gavyn Stone (seventh overall, 21:24) and Kaleb Thornton (eighth, 21:36).

The top finisher for North Wilkes was Mitch Adams, who took ninth with a time of 22:42. Teammate Corbin McLean was 16th after breaking the tape in 26:53.

The West boys were paced by Wesley Furr (10th, 22:45) and Isaiah Lewczyk (13th, 24:33).

In the girls race, Central sophomore Peyton Gage bested the field with a time of 22:39. Eagle Faith Reeves was runner-up with a clocking of 23:16.

Paced by Gage and Reeves, the Eagle girls compiled a team score of 27, besting Ashe by three points.

“It was also veteran leadership that helped us to the win,” noted Shell. “Peyton Gage and Isabelle Curry really stepped up today. Peyton went straight to the front early and never looked back. She distanced herself more throughout the race and reminded everyone what she accomplished last year as just a freshman.”

Shell indicated that Curry “dropped a monster performance” in finishing fifth overall at 24:24. “She had a gutsy finish, passing people in the final half mile. The heat yesterday is something that only benefits a tough runner like Red. We are still looking for some depth on the girls side but I like where we stand moving forward.”

Also earning team points for the Eagles were Ari Redies (seventh, 24:51) and Yasmin Perez (18th, 34:18).

The North Wilkes girls were led by Natalie Mathis (10th, 25:40) while West Wilkes was paced by Krissa Whalen (16st, 30:05) and Mady Hoover (19th, 34:48).

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