Baldwin, Cougars have big plans for 3-A meet

Baldwin, Cougars have big plans for 3-A meet

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Baldwin, Cougars have big plans for 3-A meet

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EAST FLAT ROCK

EAST FLAT ROCK

East Henderson cross country coach Justin McKenzie swears he comes up with creative ways to push Tanis Baldwin at practice.

Meets are out of their control.

Baldwin kicked it home for the finish of last weekend’s 3-A Western championship meet 58 seconds before anyone else with a personal-record time of 15:14.34. The week before, Baldwin won the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference meet by more than a minute.

“I feel like right now I’m getting really close to peaking,” Baldwin said.

“Coach has set me up to peak at the right time. Physically, I know I’m ready. I just hope I’m in the right mindset.”

Baldwin will see if everything comes together Saturday. That’s when he’ll try to defend his NCHSAA 3-A championship from 2012 by tackling the 3.1-mile course at Kernersville’s Ivy Redmon Sparks Park.

“I think there are seven guys in the field who have run under 16 minutes and (Terry Sandford’s Philip Hall) has run 15:08,” McKenzie said.

“He and Tanis are both juniors and it should be a good battle. When you have a kid like Tanis every day at practice, it’s a great motivator, especially for a team as young as ours. He has really grown a lot, as has the rest of our team. They understand what it takes to run great races.”

Like a lot of runners, Baldwin has tapered his training lately — going from 50 miles a week to 40.

As a team, Baldwin and the Eagles (107 points) placed second at the 3-A Western Regional meet, which was held in Morganton. The rest of their scoring runners were Logan Sewell (ninth place, 16:56.16), Drew Winn (32nd, 18:00.93), Logan Burroughs (34th, 18:10.53) and Dylan Stepp (37th, 18:26.03). The East Henderson girls (89) were also the runner-up to 3-A regional champ Reynolds (21).

The winning boys team on Saturday was Asheville High (36 points), which put all five of its scoring runners in the top-12. They were Noah Shore (third place, 16:32.06), Jacob Schattel (fifth, 16:37.02), Zach Tacy (sixth, 16:48.22), Elijah Cartier (10th, 16:57.79) and Sam Guciardo (12th, 17:04.62).

The Cougars previously took the Buncombe County championship with a meet-record score of 22 points on Sept. 4, then followed that up with easily winning the Mountain Athletic Conference title on Oct. 16.

Longtime Asheville coach Chris Stroup has been with the team since 1998. He hopes the hilly, often muddy courses that the Cougars have run this season will give them an advantage on Saturday.

“The guys were phenomenal (at the regional meet),” Stroup said.

“There are a lot of different ways to stack the numbers for Saturday. It’s so tight and it could be anybody’s day. I think we’ve got a pretty good chance to finish really high, but we’ll see. These guys are so young, incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about every team and course we face. It’s really been a fun group to coach.”

In all, there will be eight races Saturday in Kernersville (which is just east of Winston-Salem), starting with the 3-A boys at 10 a.m.

The 2-A girls are the last race scheduled (at 4:30).

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