As the other runners crossed the finish line and began their cool down Tuesday at Mac Anderson Park, North Iredell’s Jonna Strange offered praise for a good race.
One of those the senior congratulated was fifth-place finisher Sami Homburger. The Mooresville sophomore beat Strange by a few seconds to win the Iredell County girls’ championship race as a freshman last fall.
Nobody got the best of North Iredell’s sensational distance runner this time at the 5-kilometer event.
“It did,” Strange said, when asked if last year’s county meet entered her mind. “Last season, my iron was low and my form was not so good. I was heel-striking and losing a lot of energy. I fixed that.”
Strange won the county title with a time of 18 minutes, 32.89 seconds. Lake Norman’s Maddie Huecker was second at 18:46.49.
Huecker and teammate Madeline Stolberg, who finished third, were up front and ahead of Strange close to the outset. It wasn’t terribly long before Strange took the lead. She completed the first mile in 6 minutes.
Strange was 20 seconds ahead at mile two.
“The first mile I was just trying not to kill myself,” Strange said. “I let them chill and set the pace a little. I knew I would be fine.”
Her time was a few seconds better than her performance at the Statesville Invitational last month at Mac Anderson Park.
Strange won that meet too on a similarly scorching day. The temperature Tuesday read 90 degrees at start time.
“I was hoping to be at 18 (minutes flat),” said Strange, a fifth-place finisher at the 2018 3A state championship cross country meet who captured state titles in the 3,200 meters during the indoor and outdoor track seasons as a junior.
Lake Norman took seven of the top-10 spots to easily win the girls’ team championship with 22 points. Mooresville was the runner-up at 77 points.
Lake Norman sophomore Griffin Horner was first to the finish line in the boys’ race. He logged a time of 16:53.14. Mooresville’s Damien Gonzalez and Tanner Smith were second and third, respectively, with times of 17:01.70 and 17:20.05.
The trio was side-by-side at the 1-mile mark, and Horner and Gonzalez were neck-and-neck at the second mile. Horner had a comfortable seven-second advantage with 200 meters remaining.
With finishers two through five, Mooresville captured the team title. The Blue Devils had 25 points. Lake Norman, which had no top-10 runners in the meet a year ago, was second with 34 points. The Wildcats placed four in the top 10, led by Horner.
Boys: Mooresville 25, Lake Norman 34, North Iredell 96, West Iredell 108, South Iredell 118, Statesville 170.
Girls: Lake Norman 22, Mooresville 77, South Iredell 83, North Iredell 83, Statesville 101.
INDIVIDUAL FINISHERS (Top 10)
Boys: Griffin Horner (LN) 16:53.14, Damien Gonzalez (M) 17:01.70, Tanner Smith (M) 17:20.05, Matt Ferrara (M) 17:51.08, Andrew Lanning (M) 18:08.52, Caleb Endicott (LN) 18:22.77, Ayden Schott (LN) 18:23.08, Carter Guerrin (LN) 18:26.08, Patrick Mahaffey (NI) 18:36.05, Eric Sanders (WI) 18:37.17.
Girls: Jonna Strange (NI) 18:32.89, Maddie Huecker (LN) 18:46.49, Madeline Stolberg (LN) 19:12.05, Kaleigh Stolberg (LN) 20:54.39, Sami Homburger (M) 21:23.67, Elizabeth Galla (LN) 21:59.21, Ashley Bienstock (LN) 22:31.36, Mary Loring (LN) 22:39.33, Sydney Cook (LN) 22:41.99, Ella Moore (M) 23:07.27.