By RYAN HERMAN
NEWTON –– True to her team’s nickname Frances Massey couldn’t be caught.
Neither could her teammates.
Massey finished more than a minute ahead of her second-place East Lincoln teammate Monday to win the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference individual girls cross country championship, and the Mustangs took the top three spots and placed five in the top 10 overall to win the team title.
Massey completed the 5-kilometer course at Newton’s Southside Park in 19 minutes, 22.1 seconds. The freshman had roughly a 37-second lead after the first lap, and stretched it to more than 67 seconds by the time her race had ended.
East Lincoln teammate Meagan Rowles followed at 20:29.3, and Elizabeth Sisk came in third at 20:44.0.
“It’s just a whole season of training,” Massey said. “The whole team trained all season to win conference.”
The Mustangs –– ranked second in the 2A classification in rankings released by the website NC.Milesplit.com on Tuesday –– scored 21 points, and finished 47 points ahead of second-place Maiden. West Lincoln was fourth with 97 points and Lincolnton fifth with 104.
East Lincoln has dominated the 2A Western cross country scene this season, and Monday’s conference championship race was no different.
The first non-Mustangs finisher was Lincolnton’s Jada Blake, a junior who finished fourth and completed the course in 20:58.4.
Madison Rowles of East Lincoln was seventh at 21:25.2 and teammate Maggie Foley was eighth at 21:35.9 to give the Mustangs five top-10 finishers in the conference girls championship race for the first time in school history, coach Melvin Morrison said.
West Lincoln’s Adriana Compton was its top finisher in 10th at 21:59.1, giving Lincoln County seven of the top 10 spots.
“Madison is coming off an injury, and because she’s coming back at the right time this team legitimately has a chance to win the state (championship),” Morrison said. “Each week she’s dropping about a minute off her time.”
Blake, a junior, saw nothing but orange in front of her as she completed the race.
She’s determined to make them see black next year.
“I think I finished pretty good. This was my best (race) of the season. … I feel really accomplished considering their whole team is very good,” Blake said of East Lincoln. “I think we’ll get them next year. I think I can run up on them a little better next year.”
With the goal of winning a conference championship now achieved, East Lincoln next turns its sight towards winning the regional title in two weekends.
All eight SD-7 teams qualify for the 2A West regionals, which will be held at Morganton’s Freedom Park at 1 p.m. on Oct. 26.
The Mustangs are the favorites, Morrison said.
A top-four team finish in the regionals will at least get them to the 2A state championship race at Kernersville’s Beeson Park on Nov. 2.
“We have to keep getting faster,” Meagan Rowles said. “We have to keep going.”
No one could catch Maiden’s Corbin Boyles, but Johnathan Weber of West Lincoln laid claim to the county’s top finisher at the SD-7 boys championships.
Weber, a senior, finished third at 16:59.9. He trailed Boyles, who ran the course in 16:07.2, and Bandys’ Dakota Lewis, who finished in 16:57.3.
The mark was a personal best for Weber. His old record was 17:39, he said.
“I was going to try to (break my personal record),” he said. “I know the guys at the front have been running there all season, so I was going to try to keep up with them.
“Just gave it everything I had.”
East Lincoln’s Mason Leach was fourth at 17:01.6, and West Lincoln’s Justin Beam was ninth at 17:40.9.
The top 10 was dominated by Bandys, which put four near the front. The Trojans won the boys team championship with 37 points.
Tenth-ranked East Lincoln was second with 66 points and West Lincoln was third with 86 points. Lincolnton finished sixth with 153 points. Its top finisher was Jovan Angle, who finished 12th in 17:47.7.
GIRLS TEAM SCORES: 1. East Lincoln 21, 2. Maiden 68, 3. Newton-Conover 94, 4. West Lincoln 97, 5. Lincolnton 104, 6. Bunker Hill 154, 7. Bandys 174, 8. West Caldwell 201.
GIRLS TOP 10: 1. Frances Massey (EL) 19:22.1; 2. Meagan Rowles (EL) 20:29.3; 3. Elizabeth Sisk (EL) 20:44.0; 4. Jada Blake (L) 20:58.4; 5. Olivia Hewitt (M) 21:07.6; 6. Hannah Duff (M) 21:15.4; 7. Madison Rowles (EL) 21:25.2; 8. Maggie Foley (EL) 21:35.9; 9. Quiona Moore (N-C) 21:36.5; 10. Adriana Compton (WL) 21:59.1.
BOYS TEAM SCORES: 1. Bandys 37, 2. East Lincoln 66, 3. West Lincoln 86, 4. West Caldwell 99, 5. Newton-Conover 127, 6. Lincolnton 153, 7. Bunker Hill 159, 8. Maiden 179.
BOYS TOP 10: 1. Corbin Boyles (M) 16:07.2; 2. Dakota Lewis (B) 16:57.3; 3. Johnathan Weber (WL) 16:59.9; 4. Mason Leach (EL) 17:01.6; 5. Yates Goodson (B) 17:07.5; 6. Grant Barnette (WC) 17:19.2; 7. Zachary Miller (B) 17:34.9; 8. Zach Caldwell (B) 17:37.4; 9. Justin Beam (WL) 17:40.9; 10. Jose Nunez (WC) 17:41.8.