On a rare frost-covered morning in South Carolina, the SCISA State Cross Country Championships were being held and the stage was set.
The runner-up from the 2018 season, Heathwood Hall Boys Cross Country, had dominated the regular season and was racing over 30 seconds faster on average than what it took to win the 2018 State Championship. Nonetheless, Ben Lippen School’s boys’ team was set to defend their previous State Championship at Heathwood Hall.
The gun went off and the race began to unfold with what looked to be another win for Heathwood Hall, but as the race progressed, the tide was turning in favor of the Ben Lippen boys. As packs of runners came out of the woods on the second loop, each Ben Lippen runner seemed to be doing his part to take the edge away from the top-ranked team. The finish line came quick with HH claiming the top two spots, but Senior Camden Abrams ran a 30-second PR to place 3rd while Junior John Davis ran a 6-second PR to place 5th. Freshman Samari Van Horn and Junior Jackson McCrudden came in to break 17 minutes for the first time stealing 7th and 8th place. With the race of his life, Freshman Stuart Zoller made a leap of faith in the middle of the race, dropping almost a minute to move up nearly 13 spots from his mile position to place 10th overall. Sophomore Coke Elliott dropped nearly 30 seconds as well, placing 21st. Sophomore Josh Gilliam also ran well to place 31st and round out the top 7. Ben Lippen Wins!!! By the grace of God, Ben Lippen Wins!!! With a 16:42 team average, Ben Lippen Wins!!!
We took baby steps all year long and the team bought in more and more each week and kept putting in the work. They trusted and believed in one another, they fought for one another, and they trusted in the Lord and depended on His strength and love from where all blessings flow. They trusted a new coach with high expectations and a new race strategy, and they executed it very well. We have the utmost respect for Heathwood Hall and the standard for excellence they set this year. They averaged 16:50 when 17:26 won it last year. I am very proud of the young men on our team. They dropped their team average by 42 seconds in the past year. We are grateful to God for this blessing and opportunity and give glory to He who is always worthy to be praised.
– Coach Eric Hamner
The Ben Lippen girls team had an incredible day as well. Freshman Kate Hoover, usually the top runner for the Falcons, decided to toe the line with a leg injury and gave a great sacrifice for her teammates. Freshman Ree Williams Zoller stepped up and ran a nearly perfect race with a 13th-place finish and a season-best. Freshman Riley Beyer ran a great race despite a season plagued with injuries to finish 22nd with a season-best. Freshman Chloe Davis dropped around 13 seconds on her lifetime best to place 43rd. Sophomore Calie Morris ran her best race, dropping nearly a minute. 7th-Grader Kally Lane stepped up and ran her personal best by over 20 seconds. Freshman Lucia Kirkland ran a tough race as well coming off one of her best races at the Regional Meet. The team placed 5th overall which is an improvement on last year’s placing.
We have a very young team and we are bringing back everyone. They put in the miles and the work this year to see our team average drop well over a minute from last year’s state team. Our team average dropped 1:05 over the last 3 weeks of the season and that is phenomenal. The best is certainly yet to come from this talented group of young ladies. They were very tough today. I am grateful to God for the opportunity to coach them as they grow in Christ, grow in confidence, and grow in speed.
– Coach Eric Hamner
Thank you to Coach Hamner for contributing this article.