As the clouds rolled in over Blanchard Woods Park on Wednesday during the first cross country meet of the season, the worry was that the girls race would not finish before the rain and lightning started.
Lakeside junior Anna Bowles was not among those the spectators were worried about. Bowles crossed the finish in 19:40 to win the girls race by nearly a minute. Katie Townsend (20:27) and freshman Sarah Bowles (20:58) completed Lakeside's sweep of the top three spots and propelled the Panthers girls to a season-opening win.
The Greenbrier boys nearly finished with a perfect score, securing the top four spots. The Wolfpack were led by senior Robert Blackwelder, who charged to a time of 17:34.
Blackwelder tried to set a pace of about 5:30 his first mile. After a five-minute first mile, Blackwelder said he thought he was running a little fast, but still positioned where he wanted, just behind the leader. When the group hit the course's grueling uphill climb, Blackwelder made his move, clearing the hill with no one near him.
"It was a strong way to start off the season," he said. "You just got to improve from here."
The Panthers girls' 1-2-3 finish was just what Lakeside coach Jerry Meitin expected. He said if the Panthers stay healthy, the only team that should challenge them on the state level is annual power Marist.
"The numbers are amazing," Meitin said. "It's going to be a good year for the girls."
Evans coach Mike Lennox, who lost his top runners from last season to graduation, said he had 50 runners come out for the team this season, more than any year he's coached there.
He said he expected the Knights, who finished third as a team in both races, to have pieces to work with in coming years.
"I like the attitude," Lennox said. "We're a family, a unit."
The meet was the debut of Grovetown High's group of runners. Warriors cross country coach Steve Epperson, who previously coached at Greenbrier, fielded a team of five boys and two girls during the school's inaugural meet.
"Our goal was to finish," Epperson said. "I told them to go out slow, take their time, finish and they did. I'm very happy."
CROSS COUNTRY MEET
Top 5 Girls
1. Anna Bowles, LHS, 18:40
2. Katie Townsend, LHS, 20:27
3. Sarah Bowles, LHS, 20:58
4. Erin Payne, GHS, 22:43
5. Kayla Rogers, EHS, 23:47
Girls team scores
LHS -- 21
GHS -- 45
EHS -- 74
GTHS -- Too few participants
Top 5 Boys
1. Robert Blackwelder, GHS, 17:34
2. Joey Castillo, GHS, 18:10
3. Chris Wilder, GHS, 18:24
4. Barret Duncan, GHS, 18:34
5. Sid Vaughn, LHS, 18:45
Boys team scores
GHS -- 17
LHS -- 44
EHS -- 76
GTHS -- 116
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.