The Owen high school boys and girls cross country squads swept the team titles at the Western Highlands conference championships on Oct. 17 at Asheville Christian Academy.
On the girls’ side, Hannah Larios won the overall individual championship for the second consecutive year, and posted a time of 21:01.40 to top Polk County’s Olivia Overholt by nearly 20 seconds.
Right behind Overholt was Owen’s Laila Burk. Chloe Stiles finished third for the Warlassies and ninth overall to capture all-conference honors along with Larios and Burk.
Again for the second straight year, Larios earned conference runner of the year accolades, while head coach Kate Dost earned conference coach of the year honors in leading the Warlassies.
“Looking at the projections, Polk was going to be breathing down our necks and that proved true,” said Dost. “Polk’s best girl (Overholt) was projected to win. She had the best personal time going into it.”
Larios and Burk ran together for roughly the first two miles, some 20 seconds behind the front-running Overholt. “Hannah pulled it out at the end for the individual win; she passed the girl with less than 500 yards to go.
She pulled out a pretty good victory, so that was nice,” said Dost. “Not projected to win and she was able to pull it off and Laila ended up third, which was great.”
The top five finishers for Owen on the 5K course were Larios, Burk (21:37.70), Stiles (23:24.50), Sophie Murphy (23:38.90), and Ellery Parmenter (24:01.30).
Murphy, despite battling illness, finished just one spot outside the top ten. Stiles’ finish was a personal best for her, and Parmenter’s close – while battling through a nagging injury – helped secure the win for Owen, as they nosed out Polk County by just four points and she crossed the finish with two Polk runners close behind.
The Warlassies were next scheduled to toe the line on Oct. 27 at ACA for the regional championship. The top four-five teams (depending on the number of high schools that participate as a team) will advance to the state championships.
The boys’ victory was even more complete. All five scorers for the Warhorses finished in the top ten and their sixth runner, Aidan Nalley, came in just outside that group and finished 13th overall. Noah Lehman (18:17.30), Matthew Allen (18:24.50), Kyle Phillips (18:49.70), Sam Hey (18:58.90), and Gabriel Crockett (19:02.20) each earned all-conference honors for their effort.
Owen topped second-place Madison by 15 points. In his first year, head coach Bob Sadlemire earned Western Highlands coach of the year accolades.
“I think Madison was the odds-on favorite at one point, but we were in at least one race with them and we clearly had a better core of five people. They have a couple of good runners – really good runners,” said Sadlemire. “But they don’t have the depth that we have and I think that’s the difference. We don’t have anybody who is purely outstanding, but we have five-six guys who can run a mid-18 or better, and they’re all very tightly bunched within 45 seconds of each other.”
That proved exactly the case on Saturday with the Warhorses’ top five separated by just 45 seconds in the 5k final.
For the Warhorses, a career effort by Lehman helped set the tone, as he finished third overall and along with Allen helped Owen land two runners in the top five.
The Owen boys team was at ACA for the regionals on Oct. 27 as well. The results were not available as of deadline.