KERNERSVILLE — When the cross country state championships kick off at the Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville on Saturday, keep an eye out for the East Wilkes Cardinals in 1A competition.
For both the men and women, there are definitely some runners for which to watch. Junior Kyle Rhodes has hit his stride at the perfect time this season. In the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference Championship earlier in October, Rhodes was dominant, exceeding his goal of a 16:45 with a 16:30 to win. In the 1A Midwest Regional this past weekend, Rhodes could not be denied, running a 16:31, but perhaps more impressively, winning by 17 seconds.
On the girls side of things, they’re obviously excited for Rhodes, but they’ve got a race to run as well. As a team, they also qualified five runners for the state championship. Taylor Tharpe, Lyric Ryan, Autumn Garcia, Kaylee Shelton and Gracie Brown all qualified for states, with Gracie Brown running well for the second straight meet as the top finisher for the Cardinals. In the MVAC championship, Brown made a pass for second in the final strides. For senior Taylor Tharpe, it marks the end of her high school running career, and she’d like for the team to go out with a bang.
“This team is the closest one I’ve ever ran with. Its not just about individuals with this team, it’s all about what we can do together,” Tharpe said. “We know we have a big task ahead of us competing against these private schools but we’re up for it.”
While this is the sixth consecutive championship held in Kernersville, the course layout has changed, giving runners some new surprises. The first race starts at 10 a.m. and the final race will begin at 4:30 p.m., however, East Wilkes’ official starting time was not available at press time.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.