Tuscola’s girls cross country team finished fourth in the western region and qualified for states as a team while Andrew DelBene advanced to states as an individual on the boys side.

The NCHSAA 3A western regional meet took place Oct. 30 at Freedom Park in Morganton.

Tuscola’s red hot girls cross country team continued to advance up the ranks.The girls race kicked off at 10 a.m. with 156 runners from 22 teams competing.

Tuscola’s Eva Rinker jumped out early and the rest of the Mountaineers followed suit. Selah Hill, Luci Snyder-Lowe, Hannah Downs, Alexis Stevenson, Skylar Ball and Annalisse Phillips all ran strong races to score valuable points. Phillips, Snyder-Lowe and Downs all posted personal records. Downs also broke the 21 minute barrier for the first time this season.

Tuscola head coach Kevin FitzGerald expects to see even more improvement in the state championships.

“They have learned a lot over the past couple of weeks in regards to running in bigger meets, facing increasingly better teams and individuals and dealing with individuals and collective challenges that they had not experienced earlier in the season,” FitzGerald said. “I know they are focused and intent on showing that their earlier success and ranking was and is deserved. I and they expect a good outcome for their last race if this season.”

As a team, the Mountaineers finished fourth with 90 points. North Lincoln placed first with 33 points, followed by West Henderson with 73 points and North Buncombe with 87.

The girls squad is set to advance to the state championships Nov. 6 at Ivey Redmond Park in Kernersville.

The boys competition featured 156 racers from 22 teams.

Tuscola’s Andrew DelBene proved he is a force to be recognized in the cross country landscape. He led the boys team out of the starting box and settled in the top 25 to run a steady race to finish 22nd and earn a spot in the state championships.

He grabbed the seventh individual qualifier spot, just beating Kings Mountain’s Parker Key by six seconds. DelBene was 28 seconds from finishing in the top ten.

“After seeing the progress Andrew made last spring on the track team and observing his effort very early in the season, I told him that there was no reason that he should not be able to qualify for the state meet if he continued to do the work. And he did, every single day,” FitzGerald said.

The Mountaineers had three runners finish under the 20 minute mark: DelBene, Jordan Lombard and Noah Clancy. Bryce Cope, who ran a 20:01, and Christopher Wells, who finished in 20:05, just missed the under 20-minute mark.

Tuscola’s boys finished ninth in the team totals with 280 points. North Lincoln won the team title with 54 points.

Tuscola girls results

8) Eva Rinker 20:20

9) Luci Snyder-Lowe 20:22

12) Hannah Downs 20:48

27) Alexis Stevenson 22:04

34) Selah Hill 22:19

35) Skylar Ball 22:20

78) Annalisse Phillips 24:12

Tuscola boys results

22) Andrew DelBene 17:44

52) Jordan Lombard 19:20

63) Noah Clancy 19:32

72) Bryce Cope 20:01

73) Christopher Wells 20:05

131) Robert Riker 22:32

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