For the second time in less than a week, the boys' cross country team from Northwestern upset Fort Mill's.
It happened last Thursday at The Herald/York County Meet at Clover High School. The Trojans did it again Tuesday at South Pointe High to win the Region 3-AAAA championship.
As bad as it hurt for Fort Mill's runners, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA, there is some consolation. Since the region has eight teams, including Fort Mill's Nation Ford, the top five finishers in the boys' and girls' races earned spots in the state meet Nov. 3 at the Sandhills Clemson Research Center in Columbia.
Northwestern, ranked fifth, beat Fort Mill 41-51. Next was Nation Ford with 95 points, Rock Hill was fourth with 113 and Clover rounded out the state qualifying in fifth place with 116 points.
South Pointe was sixth at 140, Lancaster seventh with 161 and York finished eighth with 218 points.
"This is a tribute to the quality of our team,'' Northwestern coach Calvin Hudgins said. "Our teams have worked extremely hard, even meeting on weekends to run.
"We've worked hard to close the gap on Fort Mill. They have a great team and we've tried to hold ourselves up to their standard.''
Fort Mill's girls repeated the title they won last week in Clover, but this time as region champs. The Lady Yellow Jackets outscored second-place Northwestern 35-63. The other three state qualifiers were Nation Ford, third with 70 points, Clover, fourth with 103 and South Pointe, fifth with 110.
Rock Hill, the only other team to field the required five runners, was sixth with 138 points.
The day began under partially clouded skies with steaks of sun beating down on the finish line inside District Three South Stadium. But just before Northwestern's Mary Kate DuBard ran onto the field, the bottom fell out.
Even the much-needed rain was not enough to keep spectators and other runners from hanging around and cheering DuBard as she neared and crossed the finish line.
When DuBard finished, no other runners were in sight. She stood and waited as her friend, Rock Hill's Hannah Robinson crossed the line second and gave her a big hug. DuBard won by 46 seconds with a time of 19:06.05.
"She ran away from us from the beginning,'' Robinson said. "She just took off. There is a big gulf between her and me. The thing I wanted to do was to stay ahead of Tiayonna.''
Robinson was speaking of Fort Mill's Tiayonna Blackmon and she easily stayed ahead of her, taking second by 1:18.
"Times were down because this course is pretty difficult,'' DuBard said. "We ran here early in the season and there was an extra hill this time. I was trying to stay steady and push myself like I do in every race.''
Eighth-grader Mark Blackmon, Fort Mill's top boys runner, added another title to his budding career. But there was a surprise. Nation Ford's Kevin Coleman passed Clover's Mick Francis and finished second.
Coleman was the No. 9 runner on Fort Mill's Class AAAA state championship team last season but did not qualify for the state meet.
"Last Thursday, Mick finished ahead of me and I was third,'' Coleman said. "I stayed close and finally passed him about halfway through next to the football (practice) field. The course was a little slippery from the rain, but not too bad.''
Blackmon beat Coleman by just four seconds, but was in no danger of losing his slim lead heading into the stadium.
"It feels good to be county and region champion,'' Blackmon said. "My next goal is to win the state meet. I'm going to train hard to get ready and I'll be working on my strategy.''
The top seven finishers in each race were named All-Region 3-AAAA for the 2007 season. See the results below.