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Wake Forest boys and Heritage girls win NAC 6 title

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WENDELL — Heritage’s girls cross country team ended Wake Forest’s conference championship win streak with their first conference title in school history at Wendell Park Tuesday. Wake Forest’s boys cross country team was crowned NAC 6 conference champs for the third year in a row. The Lady Huskies brought home their first ever conference title for both teams in program history. Heritage head coach Jim Burrows said it’s been a goal ever since he came on to coach the team back in 2015 and now it’s finally a reality. “It’s a little surreal to win a conference title,” Burrows said. “I knew it was going to be close. We’ve talked about this since the beginning of the year. I’m really happy for Melissa Bourne, Christina Bourne and Danielle Lugo, because they have been working four hard years for this. The girls ran a great race.” Meanwhile, Wake Forest’s boys celebrated their third straight confernece championship, which has never been done before in school history. Wake Forest head coach Patrick Marshall said he is proud of how well his runners worked the past three seasons. “The boys have been working really hard this season,” Marshall said. “Our split from No. 1 to No. 5 is extremely small. Those guys are really competitive. The pack is what makes us strong. As a team, we usually score really high.” The first race of the day was the boys competition. Heritage’s Max Geckler won first place overall with a time of 17:22. He is the first Husky to win first place in a conference championship race in school history. The Huskies had five runners place in the top 16. Heritage finished second as a team behind Wake Forest with 59 points. “The boys had their best finish they have ever had,” Burrows said. “Max Geckler is our first ever individual champion. Our boys and girls are finally starting to put in the work. The boys looked spectacular. They ran the races they were supposed to run. I couldn’t be happier for them.” Wake Forest had four runners place in the top seven and seven runners in the top 12. Nick Hottell was the top runner for the Cougars and placed third overall with a time of 17:34. Lucas Rorick, Andrew Mallo and Brandon Lamberti finished fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.

Wake Forest finished with 31 points as a team with an average time of 17:52.49. Rolesville came in third, Corinth Holders placed fourth, Wakefield finished fifth and Knightdale was sixth. The girls race was the final race of the day and most of it took place during the rain. Wake Forest’s Isabella Frey finished first overall with a time of 19:06. Melissa Bourne placed second overall and first for Heritage with a time of 19:53. Danielle Lugo, Charlotte Wakefield and Christina Bourne placed fifth, sixth and seventh respectively for the Huskies. Ainsley Donovan came in ninth for Heritage. Kylie Schreiner and Bella Schwalm came in 11th and 12th respectively, which was the biggest factor in the win for the Lady Huskies. “Starting last year, we quit racing for times and started racing for place,” Burrows said. “The only way your team wins in cross country is if your team finishes near the front. The way you do that is by passing by the rest of the runners. The girls became less focused on themselves and more about the team.” As for Wake Forest’s girls team, they had three runners place in the top four. However, Heritage had 10 runners place in the top 19 compared to the Cougars who only had five in the top 19. Heritage finished with 29 points, while Wake Forest finished right behind them with 42 points. “It’s tough to place second, but Heritage has been at our heels for a while,” Marshall said. “They’ve been working really hard this season. We had some injuries that affected us. You just have to work with what you have. The girls put up a fight. They worked hard and I’m proud of them.” Wakefield’s girls team came in third place. Corinth Holders placed fourth and Rolesville finished fifth. Both Wake Forest and Heritage’s boys and girls teams will make it to the 4A east regionals at South View High School Saturday Nov. 2. The Cougars and Huskies have high chances of placing for the 4A state championship. “We have to put the hammer down for the next week and a half,” Burrows said. “I think we can do well at regionals. Some girls did better today than I expected them to. The boys did well, but I think our No. 2, 3 and 4 guys can step it up a little bit more. You never know what can happen.” “We have to keep working hard,” Marshall said. “We’re borderline from making the states. Our goal is to either make it to states as a team or send individuals to states. The boys are closer to making that goal than the girls are right now.”