As if there was any uncertainty, Providence Day left no doubt that they’re the top boys cross-country team in the state with a resounding 50-point win on Oct. 25 at the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A championships at Greensboro’s Hagan-Stone Park.
The Chargers had each of their top six runners cross the finish line in under 17 minutes and 42 seconds to run away with their fourth consecutive NCISAA title – none of which had previously been done in as impressive fashion as this year’s dominating performance.
The Chargers’ Ben Huffman won the individual state title for the second consecutive season, this time crossing the finish line in 15:24.
Juniors Nick Linder (15:34) and Jack Paddison (15:45) finished second and fourth overall, respectively, and were joined by senior Garrett Lunking (16:55), junior Chad Matthews (17:02) and sophomore Jake Gilbert (17:16) as Chargers who scored and each finished in the top 36 overall.
As utterly dominating as the season ended, coach Ben Hovis said it didn’t necessarily begin that way.
“Going into the season, the obvious goal is to crank out another state title. But it never comes easy and it never goes perfectly,” Hovis said. “At the beginning of the season we snuck by Cary Academy the first week of the season and we didn’t really start putting things together until late September.”
The Chargers certainly had it all together at the state title meet, as Huffman ran away with his second individual state title and will leave the Chargers as one of the most accomplished runners in school history.
“Ben is the only senior who has run at each of the (last four) state championships,” Hovis said. “He will go down in history here, and it’s not just because of how fast he’s run, but because he’s been completely a part of the four state titles.”
While Huffman has blazed the trail for the Chargers and will be missed dearly, the cupboard isn’t bare for a possible fifth conference title next season.
Linder and Paddison, in particular, have taken the next step under Huffman’s tutelage.
“(Linder and Paddison) wouldn’t be running where they are without Ben’s leadership and his talent,” Hovis said.
But with his guidance, the threesome has emerged to dominate the cross-country scene and rewrite the Providence Day record books.
“Those three (guys) are all really special. Right now, they’re No. 1, 3 and 4 (Chargers assistant John Compton is No. 2) in school history and to have them all on the team at the same time, it really is amazing.”
With the frontrunners leading the way, the Chargers’ run to four titles was equally amazing and something Hovis and his team can enjoy for a while. But soon it will be time to get back to work and try for their fifth title with a talented group of returners.
But for now, Hovis and his team are content enjoying all that they were able to accomplish.
“I think that’s how the program has been, because they all believe in each other and they all believe that at the right time they’re going to come around and be running their best at the end,” Hovis said. “And the last two meets have been night and day compared to the beginning of the season. I’m really proud of that.”