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Watauga middle schoolers sweep High Country Classic

Watauga Middle Schools athlete Cali Townsend crosses the finish line first in the High Country Cross Country Classic on Sept. 24. Photo by David Rogers

By David Rogers for HighCountrySports.net

BOONE, N.C. — On a perfect day (cool and dry) for long distance running in the North Carolina mountains, Watauga’s Cali Townsend and Grady Gates took top honors in the girls’ and boys’ middle school divisions, respectively, in the High Country Cross Country Classic.

According to race director Randy MacDonough, 22 teams were entered in the six race divisions that included boys and girls high school varsity, high school junior varsity, and middle school, with a Lexington, S.C. team driving the furthest.

At least figuratively speaking, Townsend finished a country mile ahead of second place finisher in the middle school girls division, Olivia Speropulos of Providence Academy. Townsend, a 7th grader, ran the 3200 meters race in 12:26.19, with Speropulos following over a minute later in 13:33.28.

Impressively, eight more Watauga middle school girls crossed the finish line before another athlete from a different school. That included Maggie Visser (3), Carrie Bradbury (4), both 8th graders, then sixth grader Sophia Stull (5), 7th grader Lily Kimbrough (6), 8th grader Lainey Johnston (7), 7th grader Noelle Bollman (8), 7th grader Gianna Casco (9), and 8th grader Julian Martin (10).

Other schools or running clubs represented among the 84 young athletes competing included Grace Academy, Tailwind, North Carolina Leadership Academy, Morganton Day School, Surry Home Educators, Happy Valley, and Liberty Prep Christian Academy.

Grady Gates of Watauga finishes first in the boys middle school division of the High Country Cross Country Classic on Sept. 24. Photo by David Rogers

In the boys middle school division, Watauga 8th grade Grady Gates took top honors in 11:58.47, while teammate Andres Roman, also an 8th grader, finished in second at 12:03.79. The same group of schools were represented in the boys division.