By RYAN HERMAN
KERNERSVILLE –– It wasn’t the finish North Lincoln had hoped for, but for its first state championship appearance in the 3A classification its boys weren’t disappointed.
After winning back-to-back state 2A titles, the Knights finished third in the 3A boys championship race in their first year as a 3A school at the NCHSAA state championships on Saturday at Beeson Park.
The Knights placed two in the top five –– Andrew Fea and Ryan Shannon –– but the rest of their pack couldn’t keep up with state champion Weddington and runner-up Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons, neither of which had anyone finish in the top 16.
“Our top two guys ran the way they’ve ran all year, we just couldn’t seem to close that gap,” North Lincoln coach Jerry Castro said. “But still, third place for our first time in 3A, definitely satisfied with that.
“We would have liked to do better, but there’s not too many teams that can say they took third in the state, so it was a good year.”
Seniors Fea and Shannon finished third and fifth, respectively, with times of 15:42.99 and 15:51.89. But the next North Lincoln runner in line was Zach Wesson, who finished 41st.
Weddington had its top five finish from 17-31, and Cardinal Gibbons –– the last two year’s 3A title winner –– and its top five finish from 23-30.
“I came in and was ranked fourth, so third is definitely good –– better than my expectations,” Fea said. “We all came together right around the end of the season, and we came out here and did our best, so that’s well could ask for.”
Racing up a classification due to realignment, North Lincoln didn’t find the individual competition any tougher than that of the 2A ranks. But the way teams stuck together –– such as Weddington and Cardinal Gibbons –– made the biggest difference.
Individual champion Phillip Hall of Fayetteville Sanford and runner-up Tanis Baldwin of East Henderson finished less than a second apart but nearly 35 seconds ahead of Fea.
“This was my fourth year being here … It was good competition,” Shannon said. “The lead guys, there’s some that are faster than others, but I think 3A, really, it’s the middle pack that is the strongest.”
NL GIRLS FINISH SEVENTH
North Lincoln’s girls got a third place finish from Allie Castro and a ninth place finish from Caitlin Potter, but a day in which its other top three runners –– Madeline Sides, Jordyn Connell and Blake Anderson –– were spread out from 32 to 92 proved costly.
Castro finished in 18:24.05, and Potter ran her 3.1 miles in 18:53.47. Mary Grace Doggett of Cardinal Gibbons won as it took four of the top eight spots en route to its fourth consecutive team title.
“We’re happy with it. Our goal for the girls at the start of the season was just to make it here,” Jerry Castro said. “Seventh in the state is pretty good when you’re talk the Tennessee boarder to the Atlantic Ocean.”