HENDERSONVILLE – A Western Highlands Conference cross country title safely in hand, Sean Doyle sprinted nearly as hard after the race as he did while winning it.
Moments after being the first runner across the finish line, leading four Polk County runners in the top seven, Doyle headed some 50 to 60 yards back up the course, shouting encouragement to every runner as they entered the final stretch of the 3.1-mile course at Jackson Park in Hendersonville.
“I feel like everyone thinks they should be pushed hard, but if no one is saying anything, it’s hard to get motivated,” said Doyle, who cheered until the full field finished the race.
Of course, Doyle and Polk County had plenty of reason to cheer Wednesday. The Wolverine boys earned their third consecutive WHC team title and Doyle won his first conference crown. So did Polk County junior India Godlock, who finished nearly a minute ahead of the field to claim the girls individual conference crown. Polk County’s girls placed third in the team competition. Complete results
In all, six Polk County runners earned all-conference recognition for finishing in the top 10 in their respective races, making for a very good day for Wolverine head coach Alan Peoples.
“An excellent day,” Peoples said. “Two individual titles, a team title, six all-conference runners out of six schools.
“It was a great day for the boys to three-peat. I’ve studied this and looked at times and so on since the beginning of the season, and we were right where we should be in the conference for the guys. I thought the girls had a shot at second, but it just didn’t happen.”
Doyle finished the hilly 5K course in a time of 16:56.3. Fellow seniors Mitchell Brown and Jacob Wolfe finished third and fourth, with freshman Caleb Potter running his fastest time of the year to finish seventh. Connor Holtz placed 24th to round out the scoring for the Wolverines, who finished 13 points ahead of Hendersonville.
“I love seeing those three senior boys go out as champions,” Peoples said.
Doyle grabbed the lead almost at the start of the race, and by the one-mile mark held a comfortable advantage over Brown, Wolfe and Owen’s Garrett Welsh, the evevntual runner-up.
“I tried to take the first mile easy and set a comfortable pace,” Doyle said. “After that, whatever I had left it was time to go.”
Much like Doyle, Godlock surged into the lead early in the race and held a comfortable lead throughout. It marked the second time in the past week that the runners had competed on the hilly Jackson Park course, and Godlock said that took a toll late in the race.
“It feels good to win, but my body hurts,” Godlock said. “I didn’t go as fast as I wanted to go.
“I was talking to myself and telling myself, just chase the bicycle (a race official rode a bicycle in front of the pack). That made me run faster.”
Godlock’s time of 20:15.80 easily topped the 21:13.30 of Avery’s Kara Polsgrove. Freshman Mariah Overholt finished 10th in 23:10.00 to earn a spot on the all-conference team, with Haven Dufford (20th), Selena Chavez (23rd) and Savannah Robbins (24th) rounding out the top five runners for Polk.
Hendersonville earned the WHC girls team championship.
Polk County runners will next compete in the 2A West Regional, set for October 31 at Freedom High School in Morganton.