HENDERSONVILLE – Ralene Kwiatkowski knows by now there is only so much she can control.
Carolina Day’s top runner has her fingers crossed that her senior year will be filled with not only fast times, but good health.
Kwiatkowski hung with race winner Sarah Bodmer of Cary Academy for a little more than half of Saturday’s girls championship race at the Western North Carolina Cross Country Carnival.
Kwiatkowski was disappointed in the time she ran (19 minutes, 44.40 seconds) on a muggy morning in Henderson County – Bodmer covered Jackson Park’s double-loop course in 19:15.70. But there’s a lot that can happen between now and state meets in late-October and November.
In her career, Kwiatkowski has experienced the upside and the downside of a season’s trajectory.
She was the 2013 and 2015 NCISAA 2-A cross country champion, but hindered by an iron deficiency in 2014. And Kwiatkowski missed the tail end of last spring’s outdoor track season with a bout of walking pneumonia.
“It’s really about racing better than I have in the past right now, more so than time,” Kwiatkowski said.
“I played a lot of basketball this summer with the WNC Lady Royals, but I still bumped up my mileage (to about 40 miles a week). I feel like I’m coming into this season with good momentum. I’m hoping my senior year will be the best one yet. And there’s a lot of excitement with the talent we have on this team.”
Race spectators filled Jackson’s grounds to watch more than 1,200 runners compete in four different divisions. This was the 15th edition of the Carnival.
Cary Academy won the girls championship with 29 points, while defending NCHSAA 2-A champion Brevard was the highest-placing local team (fifth place, 188 points). Besides Kwiatkowski, Brevard junior Ava Findley (third place, 19:56.50) and Roberson junior Elise Wright (10th, 20:14.10) were the only other area runners to place in the top-10 individually.
In the boys championship division, Asheville High was sixth with 190 points and Cary Academy again took first place with 40.
Brevard seniors Andrew Robinson (17:01.00) and Noah Graham (17:03.00) were fifth and sixth, respectively.
“We actually have a team this year (after not having enough runners for one in 2015),” said Graham, who was the NCHSAA 2-A runner-up as as a junior.
“I think that’s the most exciting thing of them all. As far as my race, I feel like it’s beginning of the season and not everything needs to be 100 percent just yet. (Saturday) was just like a good early-season workout. It’s awesome to have (Robinson) as a teammate. We push each other and depend on each other. He’s a great friend.”
West Henderson won the Carnival’s boys invitational race (90 points) and North Henderson was second (129) with the following individuals in the top-10 — Franklin’s Nathan Richards (second place, 17:38.30), North Henderson’s Hunter White (third, 17:40.90) and Dylan Christopher (fourth 17:48.70), West Henderson’s Jared Connell (seventh, 18:10.60) and Hayesville’s Gavin Morgan (ninth, 18:18.40).
Reynolds was the top area team in the girls invitational race (fourth place, 199 points). Murphy’s Cameron Rice (second, 20:50.60), Polk County’s India Godlock (third, 21:54.20), East Henderson’s Lilly Blankenship (sixth, 22:21.40) and Swain County’s Emma Pindur (10th, 22:36.60) were top-10 runners individually.
Complete results from Saturday’s Carnival can be found here.