Owen wins cross-country state championship

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
The Owen boys cross-country team emerged as state champion during the Nov. 5 meet.

A team-wide illness could not stop the Owen’s boys cross-country team from winning the 2A state championship Nov. 5.

Last year, the team came in third in the state championships.

Coach Bob Sadlemire said the team has gotten better each year, going to state four out of the last five years.

“I would just say the program’s gotten progressively better,” Sadlemire said. “Most importantly, we had 17 kids show up on day one, which is almost twice as many as we normally get. It’s in the numbers.”

Led by third-place finisher Elijah Jones, the Warhorses earned 83 points, beating second place finisher Lincoln Charter’s 91 points.

Earlier this season, Jones broke the 16-minute mark during the Sept. 13 Watermelon Run in Cullowhee, which landed him as the second fastest runner in Owen’s history.

He ran Nov. 5’s race in 16:19.20, only four seconds behind Jack Anstrom of Seaforth High School’s first place finish. Jones’ teammate Jaheem O’Hara finished eighth with a time of 17:00.91.

Both Jones and O’Hara earned all-state honors, with O’Hara also earning a sportsmanship award.

Jones said he trained differently this year than he had in the past, running more mileage and training what he described as “harder and more.” He said he was “more determined” to get the state win as it is his senior year.

He said changes in the team also helped Owen earn the top spot.

“There’s been a shift in the team, I feel like,” Jones said. “I think we’re a lot more close this year. We were close last year, but we’ve been getting closer every year.”

Jones said he was sick last year at state, and this year all but two teammates were recovering from the flu. Despite this, Jones said his “energy was there” and he was able to help the team to victory.

Sadlemire said he thought several racers from other teams were sick as well.

“I think everyone was sick in one way or another at that race,” Sadlemire said. “They did an amazing job. It’s a great team. They’re a great bunch of kids.”

Jones said the team had been looking forward to state all season and they were glad to be able to make it and win.

“We were all a little bit stressed,” Jones said. “I know our coach was, and we had just been talking about it all year. We weren’t really talking about winning regional, winning conference, we just all needed to make it to state. We needed to make it through injury-free. We’re all just super happy that we actually made it through and got it and repeat next year. I won’t be there, but I want the team to repeat.”

Looking forward, Jones said he wants to run Division I in college. He’s not sure where yet, but he said that is his goal.

Sadlemire said it was a great year for Owen cross-country.

“I think this year was so extraordinary winning state, winning conference and regional,” Sadlemire said. “This is a great bunch of kids. They’re all friends. They’re all smart kids, too. They’re all fairly well academically inclined as well. It was a great year.”