Most cross country meets are not considered fan-friendly venues. With the 3.1 mile course, it is difficult to see the runners other than at the start gates and finish lines. However, the Trojan Invitational at Northwestern High School provides supporters with four separate chances to support the runners.
Fort Mill placed first in the boy's team title, finishing with three of the top five runners, while host Northwestern and Irmo finished second and third, respectively.
Boiling Springs came away with the girl's championship, followed by Fort Mill and the Lady Trojans. The Lady Bulldogs' Lindsay Logan finished a team-best fourth overall, but Boiling Springs had six of the 13 top overall runners.
Northwestern's Mary Kate DuBard ran to the ladies' individual varsity title and Fort Mill's Mark Blackmon achieved the boy's top time.
DuBard outpaced the other 51 runners, and fought off a strong push from friend and rival Tiayonna Blackmon of Fort Mill. Blackmon, who completed the course 22 seconds behind DuBard, transferred from Northwestern and attended middle school with DuBard.
"It was a good race and I just tried to go as hard as I could," said DuBard. "I enjoy competing against Tiayonna. She is a good runner and we always try to push each other to do our best."
Mark Blackmon completed the course in 17:05, 13 seconds ahead of teammate Peter Jurewicz. Blackmon finished quick enough to jog back 50 yards to support his teammates still running.
"I ran really hard today," said Blackmon, "I guess I came on a little strong at the end. I always try and get back to cheer on the other runners. Even though I am a little burned out right now, I want them to know I am pulling for them."
After the hottest August on record, the first day of September was significantly cooler for the meet. Despite the break in the heat, coaches and parents passed out plenty of water and sports drinks to keep the runners hydrated.
Tents, electronic timing devices, water and cones to pave the way for the course were just a few of the items set up to make the Trojan Invitational a success.
Northwestern coach Calvin Hudgins knows how much hard work and time go into hosting a 10-team meet, but felt like the rewards were well worth the effort.
"Seeing the kids out here with all of their parents and friends lined up at the start makes it all worth while," said Hudgins. "We have a very beautiful campus and we enjoy hosting the meet to show it off.
"Everyone has worked hard to set up and prepare for today, but the effort is well worth it."