KF, Cavalier runners break records

Published 9:10 pm Thursday, October 28, 2010

King’s Fork’s Lark Washington, maroon, and Nansemond River’s Janel Cannon, red, run near the midpoint of the 3.1-mile course Thursday at the Southeastern District Championships. Washington finished 23rd and Cannon finished 24th.

CHESAPEAKE — King’s Fork and Lakeland each had cross country runners finish high in the Southeastern District Championships at Bell’s Mill Park Thursday and qualify for the Eastern Region Championships next week.

For Lakeland senior Devin Keel, a regional berth is a feat no Cavalier runner had accomplished in a decade.

For Lady Bulldog junior Mindy Hickman, finishing fifth was the best district finish ever for a King’s Fork runner. She’s the second Bulldog runner to reach regions.

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Hickman joined KF’s track team last year and her top-five place came in her first cross country season.

“I started off with it just for conditioning. At the first meet, though, I said, ‘Wow! I really like this,’ and I did pretty well. Coach (Mollie Turner) said my time meant I would have a good chance at making regions,” Hickman said.

It was an unseasonably hot afternoon and much of the 3.1-mile course was soggy, even with standing water in some spots.

“I think I ran through the deepest part of every puddle,” Hickman said.

She didn’t break her personal best of 20:28, set a week ago. Hickman clocked in at 20:44 Thursday. The school record before this season was 21:56.

“It’s really amazing. I didn’t think I’d be very good running like this,” Hickman said. “I’ve always liked to run. (Cross country) gives me a way to run that isn’t just by myself, plus there’s the competition. I like the competition.”

Other top Lady Bulldog runners were Lark Washington (23rd, 22:53), Qualitra Brown (33rd, 24:35) and Nicole Tsetsilas (36th, 25:34). Janel Cannon (24th, 22:59) was Nansemond River’s top runner and Sara Nelson (39th, 27:59) was Lakeland’s best.

KF’s two squads had only three returning runners from last year, said Turner, in her first year coaching KF cross country. Everyone on both teams improved steadily with each meet Turner said.

“The girls especially came together really well during the season. They made it very easy for me with it being my first year,” Turner said.

Washington, a senior, has notched personal bests in three straight races counting Thursday.

“And she’s on track to be our valedictorian,” Turner said.

“It was a mess out there. I slipped a couple times as I was trying to keep up with the pace,” Washington said. “I was surprised I ‘PR’d’ despite that today.”

Two years ago, Lakeland finished last at the district meet. The Cavaliers finished fifth Thursday and that accomplishment was equally important to Keel as his ninth-place result.

Keel, a senior, has played soccer for the Cavs since eighth grade, track since his freshman year and run cross country since his sophomore year.

“I want to come back, maybe as sort of a volunteer assistant coach, and see where this team is during the next few years,” Keel said.

Keel finished with a time of 17:51, a personal best, but that wasn’t his primary goal. The top 15 individuals go on to regionals, staying steady and in the top 10 was Keel’s strategy for the day.

For Nansemond River, Ashton Moore finished 28th (19:25) and Jemal Cannon finished 32nd (20:09). Daniel Sauzen led King’s Fork placing 36th (20:25).

The rest of Lakeland’s squad is David Waterfield, Joe Roger, Courtland Wash, Ryan Turner and Tre Spratley.

The Eastern Region Championships have been in Keel’s mind, but practices throughout the season have been about leading everyone on the team.

“It’s been about motivating your peers, the younger guys. David, who’s a co-captain with me, we’ve been working to motivate the guys. They get discouraged because they run a slower time or something, but we tell them they’re faster then we were at their age,” Keel said.

In the girls’ race, Hickory’s Teresa Williamson won in 19:27 and Grassfield won the district title. For the boys, Grassfield’s Jeremy Greenwald won in 16:12 and Hickory won the team title.

Keel and Hickman go on to the Eastern Region meet Thursday at Bell’s Mill Park.