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With plenty more miles to go this season, the first 2-A Eastern Plains Conference cross-country meet of the season Wednesday at Beddingfield gave teams a chance to see how they measure up early against area competition.
“(We’re) just trying to kick the rust off and get an actual race in and get the gears moving in the right direction,” explained Beddingfield head coach Ryan Reich, whose teams finished third in the boys race and second in girls.
After the teams weaved around the exterior of the Beddingfield campus, Farmville Central rose to the top, taking home first place in both the girls and boys races, with 27 and 29 points, respectively.
The Jaguars were led by Brennan Hartman, who finished a minute ahead of second-place Evan Bullock of Nash Central and blazed the trail in the boys race with a time of 18 minutes, 11 seconds on the 5-kilometer course.
Filling the next three positions behind Hartman in the top 5, Nash Central took second with 38 points. Beddingfield trailed by a considerable distance for third place with 73 points, North Pitt and SouthWest Edgecombe took fourth and fifth separated by one point and North Johnston came in last.
Beddingfield’s best performance came from ninth grader Alex Reyes, who finished seventh in 21:13 in his first high school meet. Reyes is running for the cross-country team and playing soccer this fall.
“That boy can run,” Reich said. “He’s got a lot of potential, tremendous future ahead of him and I’m looking forward to working with him going forward.”
Coming down the stretch, Bruins teammates and the next highest finishers for the home team, Jamian Taylor and Deonte Edwards, jostled for 14th and 15th place. In the end, Taylor edged out Edwards, chasing him down to finish an eyelash ahead.
“Every meet, I’ll save a little bit for that last little bit right there at the finish line,” Taylor said. “I just burn out and give it all I’ve got.”
Trey Ayers placed 10th to lead the SouthWest Edgecombe boys.
In the girls race, Farmville Central’s Nina Jefferson also took home first place with a 26:57 time, enough to edge out Beddingfield by one point in the team score. The two schools were the only ones with enough girls runners to calculate a team score, while North Johnston was the only other to participate with three runners.
Though it narrowly lost in the girls race, Beddingfield placed four runners in the top 10 — Marisol Sanchez in fourth, Shelby Aycock in sixth, Jasmine Juarez-Gonzalez in seventh and Diamond Hinnant in 10th .
“We’ve got some young freshman talent and once they get some more miles in, some more racing in, they’re definitely going to get a lot better,” said Reich, whose team competed in its first meet of the season.
The Panthers efforts were not fully highlighted by the final tallies, but every runner who competed for both the boys and girls teams set a new personal best in the team’s third meet of 2019.
“I just look for them to improve on their own times,” NJ coach Lola Lippert said. “We don’t really care about their placement — that would be nice — but we just care about them improving their own personal times. They have their goals they want to set, so just meet that goal.”
Senior runner Carolina Leegins had the best run for the Panthers on the day, taking second place in the girls race at 27:44, 47 seconds behind Jefferson and 30 seconds better than her previous personal best.
“It was awesome; it was thrilling,” Leegins said. “It was hot, but it felt good to have that accomplishment.”
Leegins, who eventually wants to get down to a 20-minute five-kilometer, thought beating her personal best in her third meet of 2019 was a good start.
“I can only go up from here,” she said.