Fort Mill's Mark Blackmon, a three-time state cross country champion, has withdrawn from the school. The rising junior may be enrolling at a private school in Raleigh, N.C., according to his father, Thomas Blackmon. The decision is not yet final.
Mark won his first state cross country title as an eighth-grader. With his win at the state meet last year, he became the second runner in South Carolina to win three Class AAAA titles. Ken Costello won three straight titles for Irmo from 1980-1982.
Thomas Blackmon withdrew his son from Fort Mill on Tuesday and alerted athletic director Bailey Jackson of his intention to enroll Mark at Word of God in Raleigh.
"We are in the process of (enrolling Mark) right now," Thomas Blackmon said.
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"(Mark) needs a whole lot more academic support and a better foundation. This is to give Mark support with his academics. It will be a different atmosphere."
Thomas Blackmon went on to say the school's location -- in the cradle of Atlantic Coast Conference schools N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke -- might give colleges a better look at his son.
Tiayonna Blackmon, one of Mark's sisters, is currently a distance runner at N.C. State. Younger brother Isaiah ran for Fort Mill last season as a seventh-grader and will become a more prominent member of the Yellow Jackets' team this year.
The decision came as a shock to Fort Mill cross country coach Marc Pyrc.
"Bailey sent an email this morning. That was the first I heard anything about it. It was a blindsided surprise to say the least," Pyrc said. "I had absolutely no idea this was on the horizon or even a possibility.
"We have been running throughout the summer. Mark seemed excited. I ran with (Thomas) Blackmon and he didn't say anything about this. It is a little surprise I guess."
Pyrc lost his No. 3 through No. 5 runners to graduation. With Blackmon's departure Pyrc will have to replace his top runner as well.
Fort Mill starts classes on Wednesday.