The middle of the cross country season is an intersection of fortunes.
After a month of practice and nearly as long of a time competing in races, the aches and pains can often begin to show in runners’ extremeties.
Conversely, there are some runners who shake off slow starts and begin rounding into better shape.
Both were true Wednesday afternoon on a day of perfect running conditions for the third Big East Conference cross country meet at Nash Central High School.
The overall team results did not vary from a week ago in that Northern Nash’s boys’ and Rocky Mount High’ girls came away as winners.
There was a change at the top of the boys’ meet, where Northern Nash’s Stephen Whitehead took first place (17:24).
He paced the Knights on a day when teammate Christian Tippette, last week’s winner, sat out with an infection in his left knee.
“My team stepped up (Wednesday) and won the meet,” Tippette said.
Northern Nash (49 points) has won the past two meets after losing by five points to Nash Central in the conference opener.
Nash Central fell back to third place (67 points) on an afternoon when a pair of its better runners, Montre Cash and Brian Williams finished well behind their usual times because of cramps.
“They have one on us this year, so we’ve been working hard to make sure they don’t get another one,” said Knights freshman Trey Watson, who rounded out the top 10 runners in the boys’ race.
While neither of the top two boys’ teams were at full strength, there still were plenty of accolades to spread through the field.
Despite Nash Central’s course adding two hills to the 3.1-mile layout, a number of runners on both the boys’ and girls’ sides ran personal-best times.
Each of the Twin Counties’ coaches said they saw improvement.
Rocky Mount High’s girls ran away with its side of the meet by 19 points. Freshman Barkley Browder led the Gryphons with a second-place finish (21:05), and Alexis Bryant placed fourth with a time of 21:39.
The Gryphons held on despite a considerable jump from Nash Central, which placed second in the field after finishing fifth a week ago.
Natalie Manning and Kendall Nelson ran personal bests, and Michaela Williams, the three-time defending Telegram All-Area Girls’ Runner of the Year, placed third.
Williams is rounding into shape following a hip injury that she battled during the spring track season.
“She is improving her time, and she hasn’t gotten to her best yet,” Nash Central coach Marshall Leonard said. “She is looking better, and our girls team is starting to get better.”
There are few constants on either side of the draw, but Northern Nash’s boys seem to have the best 1-2 punch – if healthy.
“As long as we go one and two and the team wins, it’s all cool,” Whitehead said.
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org