CLOVER -- That Northwestern's Mary Kate DuBard won the girls' side of The Herald/York County Cross Country Meet at Clover High School should come as no surprise.
It was how she did it.
DuBard, a senior and ranked No. 1 in the state, has dominated girls' cross country in the state this season and until Thursday's county meet, her 18:11 was the best in the state this season.
Not anymore. DuBard bettered her mark, running an 18:08.90. It was an outstanding performance that put her across the finish line 40 seconds faster than Fort Mill's Tiayonna Blackmon, who finished second.
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"I pulled out front from the beginning and didn't know if anybody was running near me,'' she said. "My plan was to set a fast pace and not let up. I was fourth is this meet last year, so being county champion my last time is nice."
As wide as the gap was between first and second, the race to the finish line for second was nearly a photo finish. With 20 yards left, Blackmon was on Rock Hill's Hannah Robinson's right shoulder.
Blackmon shot past Robinson and beat her by 4 tenths of a second.
"I wasn't worried about my time,'' Blackmon said. "I was concentrating on finishing and figured I had to pass Hannah. She's run well this year, so I can't think of a better way for today's race to end.''
Blackmon's brother, eight-grader Mark Blackmon, won the boys' race and Clover's Mick Francis was second, which was the expected order of finish.
The boys' team race produced the only upset of the day. Fort Mill, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA this week, went in as the favorite and is the defending state champion.
Northwestern, ranked 5th in Class AAAA and winner of two straight state championships before Fort Mill broke the string last year, went in as a legitimate contender.
When the scores were counted, Northwestern was first with 39 points, six better than second-place Fort Mill.
Northwestern's top runner was Ian Schoenfuss, fifth at 16:49.10. The Trojans won with its next four placers: Thomas Reburn (7th), David Faircloth (8th), Michael Marshall (9th) and Max Welborn (10th).
"I never thought I'd get my personal best on this course,'' Schoenfuss said. "Team is first and we are getting better every race.
"Early in the season, I was running the times that our fourth and fifth runners ran today. But all of us have brought our times down. To beat the No. 2 team in the state, our rival, today was awesome.''
Paced by Francis, Clover's boys were third, which delighted Blue Eagles coach Nash Lyle. Nation Ford was fourth, Rock Hill fifth, South Pointe sixth and York seventh.
Francis said no matter how hard he tried, he could not gain ground once Blackmon, No. 3 in the state, began widening his lead.
"Mark knows my strategy,'' said Francis, ranked fifth. "I try to stay with him, then outkick him when we get near the finish line. Today when we reached the final mile, he had taken a big lead.
"I tried to catch him but couldn't. We still have to run against each other in two more meets. Things can change and hopefully I'll finally beat him.''
Fort Mill's girls, No. 5 in Class AAAA, won the championship for the third straight year. The Lady Yellow Jackets easily outdistanced second-place Northwestern, 35-65.
Blackmon was second, her younger sister, Quanika, was fifth, Abbie Lewis seventh, and Julia Van Buskirk ninth.
"Our girls had a good run today,'' first-year Fort Mill coach Mark Pyrc said. "Some of the younger girls seem to be peaking at the right time. But I'm not surprised. My girls came here thinking they would win.''
Nation Ford's girls were third, Clover fourth, South Pointe fifth and Rock Hill sixth.
The top seven finishers were named all-county for the 2007 season.
The girls are, in order, DuBard, Tyanna Blackmon, Robinson, Nation Ford's Meredeth Kilburn, Quanika Blackmon, South Pointe's Angela Whalen and Fort Mill's Lewis.
The boys, in order, are: Blackmon, Francis, Nation Ford's Kevin Coleman, Fort Mill's Ryan Feilden, Schoenfuss, Clover's Tanner Fisher and Reburn.