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Union boys, Abingdon girls take team titles at Mountain 7 XC championships

PAT KENNEY, Sports Correspondent • Oct 30, 2019 at 10:22 PM

BRISTOL, Va. — The Union boys and Abingdon girls made all the right moves during Wednesday’s Mountain 7 Conference cross country championships at Sugar Hollow Park.

A hard, steady rain made conditions on the always-demanding course treacherous.

Led by junior Tanner Cusano, the Bears placed four runners in the top five and cruised to a 21-47 win over runner-up Abingdon. Gate City (101) came in third overall, with John Battle (102) edging Wise Central (102) based on the finish of their sixth runners.

With Abingdon moving on to the Region 3A meet next week, Union, Gate City and Battle earned berths into the Region 2A meet.

On the girls’ side, Lady Falcons freshman Makaleigh Jessee paced the field and led her team to a 35-47 win over the Lady Bears. Battle (76) was third with Wise Central (91) coming in fourth.

Cusano (16:14.7) and Nathaniel Hersel (16:33.1) were the first Bears to cross the finish line, while teammates Jacob Mullins (17:22.2) and Caiden Bartee (17:26.7) were fourth and fifth, respectively.

“The course was challenging today because it was so slick,” said Cusano. “But it was fun. Coach told us to be conservative today, and that’s what we did.”

With the region and state meets ahead, running fast under the conditions wasn’t in the cards for the Bears.

“We told them today to run smart,” said Union coach Mark Castle. “The plan was to attack the hills and be smart on the downhills. We focused on having our middle runners closing up the gaps, and I think they did a good job of that today.”

Jessee left no doubt of her intentions and her dominance in a race run during the heaviest rain of the day. She sprinted off the start line and left the field in her wake.

Overcoming horrendous conditions, Jessee (19:20.8) finished more than a minute ahead of her teammate Cecelia Johnson (20:25.7). Union’s Sydney Hall (21:53.8) was third.

“Before the race I was a little worried about the rain,” said Jessee. “The downhills were tricky, but overall everything went well. For me, this course is all about the hills, and that’s where I tried to attack.”

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