ST. PAUL — Although it was one of the smaller meets of the year, Wednesday’s Cumberland District cross country championships at the Oxbow Lake 3-mile course still produced some drama.
In a changed format from previous years, the top two teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to next week’s Region 1D meet at Keen Mountain Park in Buchanan County.
In the boys competition, Castlewood senior Dylan Ingle beat teammate Adam Gibson to the line for the individual title by a half-second.
Gibson had led almost the entire race, while Ingle came on strong going up the finishing hill.
“When I was coming to the finish, I was just saying that I had to beat the next person,” Ingle said. “This is my senior year of racing, and I wanted to do well this time.”
The Blue Devils won the team title for the fifth consecutive year, scoring 20 points. Thomas Walker tallied 37 points and also advanced to the region meet. Twenty-two boys started and finished the race.
Two-time defending champion Hunter Hicks finished fourth for Castlewood.
Ingle said Castlewood’s team culture is strong, and he expects big things from his team in the regional competition.
“We have a great atmosphere, and we’re like a family,” Ingle said. “We love running with each other and competing against each other. We want to win the region again and do well in the state this time.”
The top three individuals advancing to the regional meet were Eastside’s Jake Cress (seventh; 20:19), J.I. Burton’s Robert Emershaw (eighth; 20:39) and Rye Cove’s Payton Darnell (ninth; 20:55).
On the girl’s side, Eastside junior Grace Cress won her third consecutive individual title by a convincing margin of 1:57.
In a few previous meets, Cress had battled with eventual runner-up Kaylen Fields from Norton, but was able to take the one that mattered.
“It feels great to win a third one because it’s been a crazy season for sure,” Cress said. “My strategy was to run with the Burton girl and pray I didn’t start hurting before her.”
The Lady Raiders had the only complete team in the field, thus scoring the team title with an unconventional 15 points. There were only 12 runners in the girls race.
Also advancing to the region meet were Rye Cove’s Kaitlin Chapman (third; 26:55) and Harley Mosely (fifth; 32:01).
Cress is looking forward to making a bid for her third straight state appearance next week.
“I’m not really sure about the race next week because nobody has run there before,” she said. “I’m a little nervous about it.”
The action from Raven on Wednesday will begin at 1 p.m. with the varsity girls and will be followed by the boys at 2:15 p.m.
The top two teams and top three individuals not on the qualifying teams will advance to the Class 1 state meet on April 23 in Salem.