For the first time in a decade, the Providence Day Chargers girls cross-country team took home the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A championship title.
The depth of the Chargers allowed them to dominate at the conference and regional level and take their talent to the state championship. The Chargers’ Emma Brown finished in fourth-place in the state with a time of 19 minutes, 15 seconds, followed closely behind by teammate Niki Plaus, who claimed fifth place with a time of 19:44.
“We’ve had good teams over the years, but could never finish higher than the runner-up spot since 2003,” said coach Ben Hovis, who is in his 11th year coaching the Chargers.
“Last year, we put ourselves in a similar situation going into the state meet, but just didn’t perform,” he added. “I took the blame for that one and we decided to simply use it as fuel heading into this season. I felt confident headed into (the state) race, and I could feel a different vibe from them this time around.”
The Chargers were able to use their depth to their advantage, and showcased their stacked talent throughout the season. Ten different runners scored for the Providence Day team over the course of the season; and in the state meet, five different runners scored than had placed at the conference meet. The scoring combination at state was different than any other five during seasonal meets, which served as a testament to the Chargers’ depth and talent.
“The other coaches and I honestly had no idea who was going to run at the state meet because of the interchanging after our top two runners,” Hovis said. “We knew going into the season that we had the most talented and deepest team in school history. It was just a matter of putting it all together when it counted.”
Katie Brown (20:24.27), Molly Kral (20:28.27), Samantha Huffman (20:41:52), Grace Clements (20:49.22) and Heather Graci (20:58.50) all earned points for the Chargers behind Brown and Plaus, and each finished in under 21 minutes.
“These girls ran their best time at the right time, as every girl dropped significant time over the last two weeks,” Hovis said. “Talent is important, but hard work takes you to another level, as well. These are some of the hardest working girls I’ve ever coached and that was rewarded with the state title.”
In preparation for the state championship, Hovis took his team to Greensboro’s Hagan-Stone Park course to get a feel for where they would be competing. The trip proved to be well worth the extra time and driving, as the girls had the advantage of familiarity with the course before the race that helped spur them to the championship.
Next season should be an equally successful year, as the Chargers will return 28 of their 29 runners, as well as bring up a group of talented eighth graders who could make immediate contributions.
“When the runner-up team was announced, the girls looked in shock at first,” Hovis said, of their reaction upon winning the title. “There were tears, hugs and huge smiles. Anytime you can accomplish your stretch goal at the beginning of the season, it’s going to be a very special moment.”