Mary Kate DuBard, the Rock Hill Northwestern senior who this season had cut nearly 1 minute, 20 seconds off her previous best 5-kilometer performance, improved again at the 33rd Wendy's Invitational at McAlpine Park on Saturday.
DuBard, who turned 17 Sunday, ran the fastest time of the day (18:11) to win the girls' Open division and cut 11 more seconds off her best time.
She beat North Mecklenburg's Kimberly Spano, last year's N.C. 4A champion (runner-up in 18:47).
Not to be outdone, Clover's Mick Francis ran 16:14 to win the boys' Open race.
DuBard, who ran 20:06 at McAlpine last year, and Spano ran together the first mile before DuBard pulled away about halfway into the race, and opened a five-second lead. DuBard increased her lead to 11 seconds at two miles, coming through in 11:34, before winning by 36 seconds.
"I was just hoping to improve and just get ready for the state meet," said DuBard, who will compete at the S.C. championships on Nov. 3.
DuBard's performance was also better than three other defending state champions: S.C. 4A champ Alyssa Kulik of Mauldin (18:34), and two-time S.C. 3A champion Kate Borowicz of J.L. Mann (18:35), who finished 1-2 in the Invitational girls' division, and N.C. 2A champion Heather Beichner of Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (18:35), who won the girls' 3A division.
Rock Hill's Hannah Robinson was fourth in the Girls' Open, and Fort Mill's Mark Blackmon was fourth in the Boys' Invitational.