Fort Mill Times

RUNNING TO GLORY: State cross country meet

Fort Mill freshman Mark Blackmon sprints to a first-place finish.
Fort Mill freshman Mark Blackmon sprints to a first-place finish.

Fort Mill's Mark Blackmon finished his season the same way he started it - with tremendous running that earned him a second consecutive state title.

Blackmon outran Dorman's Brandon Easler, who finished in second place with a time of 16:10.69, and earned the number one spot with a time of 15:44.63.

"I got out pretty good, and we gradually built into it," the state champ said about his race. "I probably separated (from the rest of the field) when we went up the hill. I felt good."

The state championship course at Clemson's research facility in eastern Columbia is known by many runners for a long, steep hill about two-thirds of the way through the 3.1-mile course.

"Our main goal last week was to get both teams to the state championships, and both teams did just that," Fort Mill coach Marc Pyrc said.

Jon Kalshoven took home 23rd finishing the race in 17:05.81 and teammate Seth Warner finished fourth on the team and 38th in the state with a time of 17:20.96. Freshman Drew Marshall was right behind in 39th place with a time of 17:22.45. Fort Mill's Jon Tennis finished 46th in 17:28.23, Nick Eberhardt came in 64th with a time of 17:44.3 and Avery Martin completed his race in the 79th spot with a time of 17:55.21.

Overall, Fort Mill's boys' team, which finished second at the Upstate qualifier behind Dorman, finished in second place with a total of 123 points. Dorman won the team title.

"The team has the ability to make up ground in the second half of a race unlike any team I've seen before. They have caused me near heart attacks at the mile marker at many of our races only to make up huge distances and finish in very strong positions," Pyrc said.

The Lady Yellow Jackets, who have been competing strong with Spartanburg and Mauldin all season and qualified third behind both schools in the Upper State meet, took home second place with 92 points, finishing behind Spartanburg.

Quanika Blackmon, who has been coming on strong late in the season finished the race in 10th place with a time of 19:43.74. Abby Lewis came in 12th with a time of 19:45.80, followed by Taylor Miller in 18th in 19:56.6, Adrienne Cuff in 24th in 20:05.64, Julia Van Buskirk in 33rd in 20:26.53 and Ericka Friddle in 66th in 21:32.44.

"Our depth is our greatest strength on this team and we have a lot of very talented runners," Pyrc said.

"The nature of the sport comes down to putting all of the pieces together for one race."

The Nation Ford Falcons came home from the state championships with a strong seventh place finish for both the boys and girls teams.

Kevin Coleman finished 13th with a time of 16:52.03, followed by Ian Wallace in 28th in 17:12.2, Kevin Ketner in 37th with time of 17:20.69, Dennis Randar in 72nd with time of 17:48.29, Josh Owens in 83rd in 17:59.88, Kent Bonebrake in 111th in 18:31.86 and Judson Abraham in 115th with time of 18:36.67. The Falcons finished with 191 points.

Meredith Kilburn took home seventh place for the Lady Falcons with a time of 19:34.96. Imani Smith came in 37th in 20:36.9, Mariah Emenhiser finished 49th with a time of 20:53.11, Aubrey Gunnels finished 52nd in 21:04.83, teammate Britt Parnell finished 106th with a time of 23:17.43, Polly Goss in 100th with a time of 22:56.93 and Jana Walker, finished 111th in 23:40.04. The Lady Falcons also finished in the seventh place.

"Meredith ran 610 miles all summer. That makes a big difference," Falcons coach Scott Barefield said. "Kevin is one of our best runners at running negative splits. We'll have all five girls back next year, and for the guys, I appreciate the senior class starting a great tradition for us."

Coleman and Kilburn earned all-state honors by finishing in the top 15 along with Fort Mill's Blackmon siblings and sophomore Abby Lewis, who finished 12th.

Coleman also qualified for the Shrine Bowl Run, an honor awarded to senior runners based on success in their final seasons.

The runners, along with a police escort, run the official game-day ball on the morning of the Shrine Bowl game between North and South Carolina.

The event starts at the Shriner's Hospital in Greenville and ends at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg. The game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 20.

Mike Laughlin contributed to this story.