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Heritage cross country stands out at Early Bird Invitational

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WENDELL — Heritage High’s legacy as a cross country kingpin --- and queenpin --- further emerged last weekend at the 2019 Early Bird Invitational at Wendell Park on Saturday.

Husky hustlers claimed three of the four team competitions while sending two individual runners over the finish lines first. Max Geckler won the 85-participant boys championship with a time of 17 minutes, 15.91 seconds (almost eight seconds ahead of the runner-up). Gabrielle Santomartino dusted the 65-person girls open field in 23:57.64 (or 13 seconds faster than the nearest pursuer).

This year’s event drew 320 trail blazers to an annual 8 a.m. Saturday morning start hosted by East Wake High coach Mike Costantino.

“It’s another crowded group,” he said. “So far, so good. We have seen interest and participation continue to build.”

Geckler’s boys championship title included five other teammates in the top 26. Anderson Bitzenhofer (18:40.8, 13th place), Thomas Halvas (18:52.86, 18th), Trip Brooks (19:10.09, 22nd), Caden O’Connell (19:13.15, 25th) and Alex Chesler (19:17.63, 26th) fortified a second-place squad performance behind Enloe.

Wakefield’s Carson Wright (18:08.84, seventh) helped boost his crew to fourth place.

Amid the boys open, Heritage hauled in 11 of the top 31 spots. Jack White (20:02.18, sixth), Spencer Thompson (20:25.63, eighth), Kyle Raynor (20:38.51, ninth) and Zander Lawson (21:10.82, 14th) powered the easy team victory.

The Huskies claimed the girls championship conquer with 48 total team points, which was way in front of Clayton (77) and Wakefield (77). Daniell Lugo (20:54.76, third), Bella Schwalm (21:41.74, sixth) and Charlotte Wakefield (22:22.97, 13th) anchored that achievement.

Wakefield High was best represented there by Kinleigh Erwin (21:49.36, eighth), Emma Grace Fischer (23:18.92, 18th) and Isabelle Webb (23.29.33, 20th).

Though the Wolverines romped to six of the top 18 berths amid the girls open division, Heritage still prevailed 47-55 in the team tussle. Top Huskies behind Santomartino’s supremacy included Hadley Turner (25:02.65, sixth) and Samantha Palmer (25:27.69, 10th).

Wakefield’s stopwatch stars were Allison Gaulway (25:11.51, seventh), Makenna Castor (25:18.22, ninth), Amelia Peak (25:37.43, 11th), Madeline Caulway (26:10.52, 16th), Jennifer Tan (26:27.49, 17th) and Elizabeth Whitehead (27:07.45, 18th).