Home Local Sports Lady Raiders 3rd, Raiders 5th at SAC championship meet

Lady Raiders 3rd, Raiders 5th at SAC championship meet

Junior Mariana Mendez (standing, third from right) finished fifth overall and was named to the All-SAC roster. (Contributed by Tami Davis McInnis)

LAURINBURG — Running at Dragon Park for the second time this season, the Richmond Senior High School cross country teams competed in Tuesday’s Sandhills Athletic Conference championship meet.

The final 3.2-mile race against fellow conference opponents ended in a third-place result for the Lady Raiders, while the Raiders placed fifth. 

Of the seven total programs running in each race, there were four qualifying girls’ teams and five qualifying boys’ teams.

The Lady Raiders secured 84 points, while the Raiders tallied 140 points. Pinecrest High School swept the SAC championship with 18 points by the Lady Patriots and 25 points for Patriots.

“We are really proud of the way our runners handled themselves and performed during the conference championship run,” co-head coach Ashleigh Buie said. “Our conference has a lot of really strong teams and fast runners, which makes every meet a challenge.

“As a program we’ve worked tirelessly all season to prepare for this and we were able to remain competitive,” she added. “Mariana (Mendez) not only finished in the top five girls, but also recorded a new personal record time. As a whole, our kids did a great job and they should be proud of how they ran.”

Mendez clinches fifth overall, Lady Raiders third

Mendez, a junior on the team, closed out the final SAC meet of the season like she has all the others — at the front of Richmond’s lineup.

Clocking in a 21:22.41, Mendez was fifth overall out of 39 runners and collected five points for the Lady Raiders. That time was a new PR, which was 13.44 seconds faster than her previous best time, which she set during last year’s SAC championship.

As a result of her finish, Mendez earned her spot on the All-SAC roster.

The four other runners to notch points were sophomore Samantha Barnes (22nd, 17 points), junior Alivia Webb (24th, 19 points), freshman Dayana Franco (28th, 21 points) and senior Kaleigh Cloninger (30th, 22 points).

Webb (24:58.58) and Cloninger (26:09.79) each recorded new PR times in the biggest race of the season to date. Webb erased 9.52 seconds off her time from a race at Pinecrest as a sophomore, and Cloninger was nearly two seconds faster than her PR from a race two seasons ago.

Both Barnes (24:55.45) and Franco (25:52.19) finished with times close to their season average, with Franco just two seconds off from her fastest time in her career.

Also running for the Lady Raiders was freshman Madyson Cloninger, who took 38th place and crossed the finish line with a time of 32:03.49, just a little over a second slower than her PR.


Lowry paces Raiders, who finish fifth

The Raiders, who were relatively young in experience this season, closed out their campaign with senior Zaviar Lowry at the front of the pack.

Taking 25th overall in a field of 48 runners, Lowry clocked in a 19:19.84, his third fastest result this season. He secured the first 22 points for the Raiders.

Sophomores Cameron Gladden (34th, 27 points), Angel Cristobal (41st, 29 points), Jake Richardson (42nd, 30 points) and senior Toby McInnis (44th, 32 points) were the other qualifying runners.

Cristobal’s time of 23:31.05 was a new PR, nearly 20 seconds faster than his race at Dragon Park earlier in the season. McInnis recorded his fastest time of the fall (24:45.48), which was his best outing since last season’s championship race.

Gladden (21:28.98) was 1.98 seconds off from setting a new PR, and Richardson timed in at 23:49.26.

A trio of Raiders took 46th-48th place — senior Cain Hunsucker (27:11.95), sophomore Luke Gilliam (27:30.04) and junior Jaxon Chavis (28:41.14), which was a new record for him.

“Our focus now shifts to getting ready for the regional race,” Buie closed. “We can take up to our seven fastest runners on each team and we will use the time in between to improve our times and stamina on the course.”

The NCHSAA 4A Mideast Regional meet will be held at the WakeMed Soccer Complex in Cary on Saturday, Oct. 28.

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Kyle Pillar is a 22-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on X @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.