Knights hit their stride, conference title in sight

Published 9:03 pm Friday, September 23, 2022

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Like any other third year program, the Terra Ceia cross country team had to walk before it could run.

TCCS teacher and long-time runner Brandi Cagle (then Holland) started the squad with a group of sixth-graders in 2020, but couldn’t officially compete since the Tar Heel Independent Conference’s varsity level starts with seventh grade.

Participation increased last fall and the boys team competed in the state tournament. Things continued to improve this past summer, when Cagle married former Riverside cross country coach Mark Cagle and convinced him to bring his high school training methods to her TCCC team, still made up of mainly middle schoolers.

The results have been dramatic as almost all of the 18 runners on the girls and boys teams have vastly improved their times from last year.

“He (Mark Cagle) has pushed us harder than we thought we could go,” 8th grader Lawson Holland said. “He’s taught us to push through when we get a side cramp and not slow down until the race is over. It’s fun to see our time drop almost every race.”

The Knights boys team is in first place in the conference, while the girls are battling Ridgecroft for the title.

Junior Brayden Cutler and sophomore Dustin Carrow are the only high-schoolers on either team and the Knights fastest runner, Troy Wright, can’t compete officially because he’s in sixth grade.

“He is undefeated in conference races and has already broken the school record twice this year,” Brandi Cagle said. “20:56 (over a 5K course) is his best time and it’s amazing how well our team has done without any of his times counting.”

Wright and his older brother Levi, moved to Beaufort County from the province of Alberta, Canada over the summer and has adapted well to the harder training sessions.

“We heard they had a team here and we decided to try it,” Troy Wright said. “It’s been fun and my fitness level is much better. It will help me with basketball and other sports.”

The practice changes include running more miles each practice and a series of interval training sessions that include running 800 meters with a one or two minute rest, then 600 with another rest, then maybe another 800 with rest and so on until a maximum of 16 intervals have been completed, with an emphasis on getting faster each interval.

“It teaches us that we can run on tired legs,” 8th grader Ruthie Glass said. “The races almost seem easy compared to our practices. We’re all in much better shape and mentally we know we can push through being tried and wanting to stop. Our team is really close and we encourage each other all the time”

Glass, Chole Alexander, Leah Harrison and Lily Meijer make up the girls team, while Coby Alligood, Holland, Levi Wright, Tanner Carawan and Carrow will compete at the state tournament because Troy Wright is too young.

Carawan is one of several returnees from last year and has bought into the new program.

“I felt terrible after our first practice in July,” he said. “I was stiff and sore, but I stayed with it and am glad I did.”

The coaches say that’s a big part of what they are trying to teach.

“All of them have exceeded what they thought their limits were,” Mark Cagle said. “They have more confidence and have challenged themselves to do even better. That will take them a long way.”