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WAKE FOREST — Franklin Academy’s Aaron Rovnak won first place in the 1A state championship boys cross country meet at Kernersville Saturday, being the first Patriot to do so in the history of the boys program.
The junior ran a 16:05.97, beating second place Drew Zink of Lincoln Charter by 25 seconds. He was one of three runners to finish the championship race in under 17 minutes. Last year, Rovnak finished third overall at the 1A state meet with a time of 16:40.98. This time, he emerged victorious.
“It feels great,” Rovnak said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, my previous coaches Coach (Beth) Martin and Coach (Justin) Rhodes. My parents came to most of my meets and helped condition me. Coach (Rob) King really helped me improve by a minute this year. Everybody helped me achieve this goal. I was able to go out and do it because of them.”
Rovnak ran a personal best time of 15:45.84 in the 1A Mideast regional meet a week before and won first place in that as well. He said winning the competitive regional meet helped boost his confidence at the state championship.
“I thought that I was the strongest coming into the race,” Rovnak said. “I knew it was going to be between me and Drew Zink from Lincoln Charter. I was able to beat him by 10 seconds in the regional meet. I knew that I was in the best shape of my life and as long as I didn’t burn myself out in the first mile and ran my race and not think about the cold weather, I knew I could win.”
Franklin Academy head coach Rob King said with confidence that Rovank is the best runner in the state at the 1A level and the first-place finish at the state championship confirmed that.
“Seeing Aaron win was a great thing for our program,” King said. “I’m very proud to be a part of it. Aaron would turn that first-place trophy in for a team trophy in a heartbeat if he could. That’s the kind of team player he is. He left no doubt that he is the best 1A runner in the state.”
King has known Rovnak since he was in middle school as his physical education teacher. He also coached Rovnak when he played for his middle school basketball team. He said the student athlete hasn’t changed over the years and that’s what makes him special.
“I’ve known Aaron since middle school and not much has changed,” King said. “He’s been consistently the same guy. That things that define him now defined him earlier as well. He has missed zero practices this year. He is dedicated and a leader by example. He always does his best and that doesn’t change throughout the years.”
As a team, Franklin Academy’s boys team finished sixth overall with 184 points. The Patriots finished behind Pamlico County (182 points) and ahead of Lejeune (198 points).
“I think our team has a huge shot to win the state championship next year,” Rovnak said. “I’m going to go for first place again next year, because that’s going to help our team the most. If all of our guys come back healthy and works just as hard, the state championship will be ours.”
Franklin Academy’s girls team broke their streak of three consecutive 1A state championships with an eighth place finish at the state meet. The Lady Patriots tied with Highland Tech with 226 points, but broke the tie with average run time. Franklin Academy finished behind Pine Lake Preparatory, who scored 216 points. Franklin Academy’s conference rival Research Triangle won the 1A state championship with 67 points.
“I thought we did well this year as a team,” King said. “This program has been well developed by Coach Martin. I came in with the attitude that I was going to do my best as a first-year coach. We’re in a good spot for next year. I’m really looking forward to what we can accomplish.”
Frey finishes fourth for Lady Cougars
In the 4A state championship meet, Wake Forest’s Isabelle Frey placed fourth overall with a time of 18:38.65. That’s the sophomore’s third best time this season. Her personal best was when she won the 1A east regionals with a time of 17:45.10.
Her teammates Leah Given and Olivia Fischlein finished in the top 50. Given ran a 19:54.50 to place 42nd and Fischlein came in 50th overall with a time of 20:06.15.
On the boys team, Nick Hottell was the best runner for the Cougars. The sophomore placed 63rd with a time of 17:02.12. His teammate Lucas Rorick came in 92nd with a time of 17:25.66.
Other local results included Heritage’s Melissa Bourne, who ran a 19:30.55 to finish 22nd in the girls race. Max Geckler placed 43rd for the Huskies in the boys race with a time of 16:48.07.
Rolesville’s Corey Little came in 83rd overall with a time of 17:15.26.