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Rea, Pearson near top of middle school boys race; Stull, Carter, Tunstill lead girls to win

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — Defending home court is a big thing for many athletic teams, including in cross country where the results are more centered on the individual performances. For the Watauga District Middle School team, both the boys and the girls teams earned heady performances in the Blue Ridge Mountain Rentals High Country Classic on the Watauga High School home course.


Pioneers Sean Rea and Jonah Pearson finished No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, leading Watauga to a No. 5 team finish.

All five of Providence Academy (Johnson City) scorers finished in the top 22 student athletes competing, a field of 100 harriers from nine different middle school teams. Leading the way for Providence Academy was 8th grader Dylan Robinson at No. 1, crossing the finish line of the two mile race in 11:30. Rea, a Blowing Rock 7th grader competing for Watauga District’s team, was not far behind in 12:22, with Pearson just one second later in 12:23.  A slew of Providence Academy, Liberty Prep, Grace Academy, Wilkes Central and Northwestern runners crossed the line before Watauga’s next team member, 8th grade Cole Gray at No. 34. Other Pioneers to finish in the top half of the field included Caleb Duvall (No. 43), and Yates Hodges (No. 44).


Like their young male counterparts, the Watauga District’s middle school girls team had a strong showing. In fact, by capturing three of the top five places and six of the top 10, even without the team’s top runner, Cali Townsend, the young Pioneers captured the girls team title in a runaway, with 27 points vs. No.2 team finisher Providence Academy’s 51 points.

The race was won by Ryan Belt of Providence Academy, in 13:13, but Watauga finishers included Sophia Stull (7th grade, No. 3), Maia Carter (6th grade, No. 4), Ayla Tunstill (7th grade, No. 5), Sadie Long (8th grade, No. 7), Eva Hannon (7th grade, No. 8), Claire Nance (8th grade, No. 10), Grace Scantlin (8th grade, No. 12), Addie Greer (6th grade, No. 13), Ella Goodman-Meade (6th grade, No. 14), Lillian Kimbrough (8th grade, No. 15), Gianna Casco (8th grade, No. 16) and Noelle Bollman (8th grade, No. 19).

Watauga coach Scott Townsend shared a lot of positives after the race.

“This was a perfect day. The weather, the racing, the fans… it was all a lot of fun,” said Townsend, before noting, “Comparing this race to the first race of the season, our girls averaged 60 seconds per athlete faster on the same course. That was just six weeks ago and we still have three weeks to go before the state meet. A lot of our success is because so many of our girls worked as a team. They linked up and raced together. You can see that in the clumps of Watauga finishers.

“I also think it was impressive that two of our guys, Sean Rea and Jonah Pearson, finished in the top three,” said Townsend. “In fact, our boys team averaged one minute, 28 seconds (1:28) better than on the same course six weeks ago. We are just one week removed from the Hare & Hounds Race where Sean Rea set the Watauga County Middle School Cross Country grade level record for the 3k distance. The entire team just keeps getting better and better.”


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