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The girls of the Ironclad Conference embark on their 5K during Tuesday evening’s conference championships at Bells Mill Park. From left: Lakeland High School runners Amanda Mason, Leanna Harville, Jennifer Rockwell, Alexus Copeland and Juli Durand, King’s Fork High School runners Mikayla Gilchrist, Danielle Hill and Courtney Ricks. Third from the right, 85, is Nansemond River High School runner Kara Dixon. (Melissa Glover photo)
The girls of the Ironclad Conference embark on their 5K during Tuesday evening’s conference championships at Bells Mill Park. From left: Lakeland High School runners Amanda Mason, Leanna Harville, Jennifer Rockwell, Alexus Copeland and Juli Durand, King’s Fork High School runners Mikayla Gilchrist, Danielle Hill and Courtney Ricks. Third from the right, 85, is Nansemond River High School runner Kara Dixon. (Melissa Glover photo)

NRHS teams, LHS’ Crowell win

Published 9:22pm Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nansemond River High School’s boys’ and girls’ cross country teams of the past never had evidence of their excellence hanging from the gym wall. This year’s teams will after they both won Tuesday’s conference championships.

“I think that they (strove) off of knowing that they could be the first teams to bring a banner home for cross country,” Nansemond River head coach Kurt Straub wrote in an email.

Lakeland High School junior Jake Crowell took first individually with a personal record in a finish made dramatic by a cramp and a record day from King’s Fork High School senior Brandon Gipson.

Though injuries were a common theme among all three Suffolk public schools, each program had reasons to celebrate after the Ironclad Conference cross country championships at Bells Mill Park.

“The kids ran really well,” Straub said. “The boys knew going into it that Phoebus (High School) was coming after them.”

Nansemond River High School’s top female runner, senior Kara Dixon, pushes through Tuesday’s Ironclad Conference cross country championships at Bells Mill Park. Dixon finished second overall among the girls. (Melissa Glover photo)
Nansemond River High School’s top female runner, senior Kara Dixon, pushes through Tuesday’s Ironclad Conference cross country championships at Bells Mill Park. Dixon finished second overall among the girls. (Melissa Glover photo)

The Warriors ended up 19 points ahead of the Phantoms. Straub said all of his top boys set personal records. Senior Airrin Davis placed fourth with a time of 18:16.39, sophomore Nicholas Gill took seventh with a time of 18:32.31 and junior Austin Heyman’s 18:48.06 time was good for ninth.

Senior Jalen Warren has been fighting a foot injury, but “this week he pretty much pushed right through it,” Straub said. Warren got below 19 minutes for the first time, coming in 10th with the time of 18:59.55.

Crowell took first with a new personal best of 17:43.31. After Crowell’s time of 17:54.23 last week, Lakeland head coach Christopher Novakoski said, “I knew he was going to have to cut time because I knew everybody was going to be gunning for him.”

Crowell said he caught a cramp around the first mile of the race, which limited him significantly.

“I’m still proud of my performance, but the competition was closer than I wanted it to be,” he said.

“That was just pure determination and a desire to win,” Novakoski said of Crowell’s performance. “I know that guy from King’s Fork pushed him.”

Gipson, who also recorded a personal best, finished just over two seconds behind, with a time of 17:45.65.

“I really wanted the conference title,” Crowell said. “I probably would have slowed down if he wasn’t there.”

Novakoski was pleasantly surprised overall by the Lakeland boys’ team placing third; he said it was the first time the group has topped King’s Fork.

The group benefited greatly from performances by juniors Irvin Ashburn and Jeremy Hill and sophomore Jalil Bonds.

King’s Fork’s teams were particularly hurt by injuries, but coach Marvin Ricks said, “I think the guys and girls did a pretty good job considering.”

Senior Darius Allen came in third behind Gipson. Ricks said most of the guys ran 15 to 30 seconds faster than normal, but the team’s usual No. 3 runner, sophomore Peyton Chludzinski, had tendonitis, dropping him to 33rd, next to last.

In the girls’ race, Straub said his team knew “between us and Lakeland that it was going to be a close race.”

Nansemond River ended up placing only six points ahead of their cross-town rivals.

Novakoski was very satisfied considering Lakeland did not field a full girls’ cross country team last year. “To show up today and be that close is definitely a step in the right direction,” he said.

Senior Kara Dixon of Nansemond River ran a tight race with Ashanti Jackson of Phoebus, finishing second with a time of 21:58.58. Freshmen Casey Williams (22:42.60) and Christina Banks (23:02.85) placed fifth and sixth, respectively.

Two of Lakeland’s top runners were neck-and-neck with each other as junior Juli Durand achieved third with a 22:31.53 time and senior Alexus Copeland was fourth with a 22:38.58 time.

The King’s Fork girls’ team was not able to place because it lacked the necessary number of runners. Sophomore Mikayla Gilchrist re-injured a twisted ankle during the race and could not finish.

For both the boys and girls, Suffolk runners occupied seven of the top 10 spots.

The top four teams to finish qualified for regional competition. For runners not on those four teams, qualifying individually for regionals meant placing in the top 15 of their respective individual races.

Junior Courtney Ricks was the lone female qualifier for King’s Fork, and like all other top 15 girls’ and boys’ finishers, she was named to the all-conference team.

The regional competition will take place on Wednesday at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville.

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