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On a familiar course and with temperate September weather, the second-place finish of Grace Ziegler in the girls race and sixth-place time of Malachi Atkinson in boys highlighted the first 1-A Tar Roanoke Conference cross-country meet hosted by Wilson Preparatory Academy on Wednesday at Bible Missionary Baptist Church.“I got faster as I went,” said Ziegler, a ninth grader who started running cross-country three years ago.
The exact distance of the three-lap course was not confirmed, it was not a full 5 kilometers, leading to faster times in both races than in a standard distance race.
Ziegler, becoming more comfortable the longer she ran, led the way for a cluster of three Tigers who stuck together for most of the girls race.
“She did really well,” WPA first-year head coach Allison Ellis said. “She looked tired, but she pushed through and kept her head up.”
Coming in with a time of 23 minutes, 32 seconds, Ziegler was closely followed by Trinity Carpenter at 23:52 for fifth place and later by ninth-place finisher Liyah Poole at 27:12.
“We’re a group and we really motivate each other,” Ziegler said.
Bianca Delgado of North Edgecombe was the winner in the girls race, finishing in 21:54.
As the only three Tiger competitors in the nine-girl race, none of the five conference teams who participated — Wilson Prep, North Edgecombe, Northampton County, Northwest Halifax or Southeast Halifax — had enough runners to calculate a team score. Rocky Mount Preparatory did not have any girls runners.
In the boys race taking place out on the course at the same time, 46 competitors was plenty to determine Northampton County the winning program with 25 team points. The Jaguars were followed by Rocky Mount Prep in second (35 points), Wilson Prep in third (81) and North Edgecombe in fourth with 93 points. Southeast Halifax and Northwest Halifax did not have the requisite five runners each to be eligible for team scoring.
As the Tigers’ top finisher, the strategy of Atkinson, which kept him near the top from the start and finished with a sprint down the final stretch, brought him in at 15:29.
“I’m so proud of him this season,” Ellis said. “It’s my first season here, but he has really come through to be our strongest runner so far. I look forward to seeing how much better he gets.”
The time by Atkinson was just under a minute slower than first- and second-place finishers, Robert Mines (14:32) and Nicolis Bonds (14:33) from Northampton County.
“I was trying for first,” Atkinson said. “It feels good to just help out my team in the best way I can.”
Atkinson was followed by teammate Luis Antunez in 15th place, George Wooten in 17th and Bradley Jones in 19th.
The Tigers’ next conference meet will be Wednesday, Sept. 18 at Rocky Mount Prep.