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South Team
Race Notes

Lowe bids farewell to Portland Meadows with silver medal finish
DyeStat South editor John Sullivan's post-race wrap-up of South teams at NTN.

Boys - GIrls


The Woodlands XC (athletes from The Woodlands HS, TX)
4th place – 197 points

17. Layne Nixon, sr, 16:37.2
24. Reed Connor, jr, 16:46.4
25. Drew Butler, jr, 16:49.1
34. Richie Spearman, jr, 16:56.4
97. Mitch Blakeley, sr, 17:39.2
108. Tim Wang, sr, 17:46.7
127. Michael Golden, sr, 17:58.7


The Woodlands has been the gold standard in Texas, winning a record 15th state 5A title this year. And they’d enjoyed some national recognition, most recently as the US#1 in the 2003 Harrier final rankings. Yet a best of “only” 7th in NTN club competition had left the squad yearning for more and that was satisfied (for now) with a 4th place finish.

Layne Nixon, who didn’t make the team’s top 7 in 2006, led the charge with another stellar performance in 17th, on the heels of 6th at State and 4th at NTN South. “I never ran a course with conditions like that and I really enjoyed the slop,” said Nixon.

Reed Connor had been the #1 man this fall, before dehydration/heat took its toll at State, resulting in a gold-clinching crawl across the line as the team’s #5. He then skipped NTN South as a precautionary measure and that may have paid off today as he was close to his previous form, finishing 24th. “I was okay until about 2 miles when I felt “funny” again. I just tried to relax and that seemed to carry me through the finish.”

Drew Butler and Richie Spearmon, juniors along with Connor, followed quickly in 25th and 34th, and this 19-second 1-4 spread ensured The Woodlands was in the hunt. These four were out very fast and hung on gamely.

Coach Dan Green said, “It scared me to see them up with the Colby Lowe types (overall silver medalist, and the Texas state champ) - we’re a little bit out of our element there. But I’d rather see them go out under these conditions rather than stay back and get lost in the pack. They held on and did a good job. We ran well and we’re very happy. Our (usual) #5 was back, but everyone on the team has had one like that at some point. At some point he lost contact and I think he may have panicked a bit being by himself.”

Carroll XC (athletes from Southlake Carroll HS, TX)
15th place – 338 points

2. Colby Lowe, sr 15:42.8
5. C.J. Brown, jr, 16:23.5
105. John DePinto, sr, 17:45.4
106. Neal Smith, so, 17:45.5
120. Ahmed Toure, jr 17:52.6
144. Evan Garner, jr, 18:15.5
154. Josh Weaver, jr, 18:57.6


On Friday night, Colby Lowe got a little sentimental while relaxing with his family. “Tomorrow will be my last time ever on this course.” That simple statement somehow had a ring of fondness, sadness, happiness and, most importantly, confidence about the upcoming battle with his fellow national elites.

Lowe finished 30th here as a freshman in 2004, turning some heads. His club returned last year and after picking himself up from the first turn pile-up, he’d moved up to 4th. This year he came in as a 3-time Foot Locker qualifier and someone being talked about along with, but slightly after, Chris Derrick (who’d broken the revered IL state meet record held by Craig Virgin [after an adjustment for a slight course alteration]) and Ben Johnson, the top national Foot Locker returnee, just ahead of Lowe.

In typical Lowe and Carroll style, he pushed the pace and held the lead by fractions over Derrick at each of the first four 1k splits. By 3k, Johnson was 6 seconds back and dropping. Around 4k Derrick moved to the lead, but Lowe quickly responded and surged back in front. Then Derrick made another push and slowly eased away, though Lowe appeared to have another shot with about 200 to go, but it was not to be. “He’s a great runner. I gave it everything I had and that’s what it’s all about,” said Lowe. Now it’s on to San Diego for a rematch, with many other talented studs joining the fray.

Rogers XC (athletes from Rogers HS, AR)
16th place – 360 points

13. Aaron Hamilton, sr, 16:33.2
46. Taylor Surly, sr, 17:06.7
71. Forrest Roth, sr, 17:19.5
111. Cameron Efurd, jr, 17:48.0
119. Juan Orrala, jr, 17:52.3
148. Jordan Falls, jr, 18:18.8
150. Henry Wildenborg, jr, 18:23.2


Rogers got fine efforts from senior stalwarts Aaron Hamilton (13th) and Taylor Surly (46th), leading them to a 16th place showing in their first NTN appearance. Hamilton looked particularly strong, blasting through the last mile to challenge for a top ten spot before getting nipped at the line by two athletes.

"It was great to be here, but we knew the competition was tough,” said Coach Carlton Efurd. “Our goal was the top 18 and we wanted to beat at least one at-large team.” Mission accomplished! “Now we know what this is all about and we look forward to coming back.”


Carroll XC (athletes from Southlake Carroll HS, TX)
18th place – 344 points

28. Tara Upshaw, jr, 20:00.0
45. Taylor Stephens, sr, 20:28.9
71. Jessica Harper, so, 20:46.0
88. Lauren Hill, sr, 21:00.3
112. Lucia Xiong, jr, 21:34.7
134. Caitlin Gilbert, jr, 22:14.7
153. Jill Pawlowski, sr, 24:53.0

After consecutive 8th-3rd-3rd finishes the first three years, hopes were high in the Carroll camp. But it wasn’t meant to be this year as the club placed 18th.

Tara Upshaw was their #1 as usual, but couldn’t get untracked and finished 28th. In prior years she’d relished the nasty conditions (6th last year and 23rd as a freshman), charging hard from the gun. She got out well again this year, but “never felt that great. It also felt very cold.”

Now its back to the drawing board, with dreams of returning to Portland for the 5th straight year.

Keller XC (athletes from Keller HS, TX)
22nd place – 585 points

79. Laleh Mojtabaeezamani, sr, 20:55.8
114. Chelsea Scott, so, 21:38.6
115. Ashley Vincent, so, 21:38.8
130. Kelly Dawson, sr, 22:10.2
147. Julie Durrwacher, so, 22:56.0
150. Shelby Coval, fr, 23:30.1
152. Emma Reed, so, 24:37.4

Keller is a first-time NTN participant. They’d seen how well local rival Carroll had done in previous years and hoped to battle with them in the upper echelons, as they had all year.

They had a plan to get out a little harder than usual to give themselves a chance. And they did, sitting in 9th place at the 1k split. But then it started to unravel and that can be tough against a field like this. The team agreed after the race that the conditions were miserable - but it’s hard to be objective about that when the results don’t live up to pre-race dreams.

The girls had a great time at this whole event and are grateful for the experience. They’re also looking ahead to qualifying again.

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