High school cross-country: Carson girls still on top – Salisbury Post
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Last fall, Carson girls’ cross country coach Les-Lee Efird wasn’t sure the Cougars could be competitive in 2022.
Three seniors from all counties, including 2020 county champion Camden Corley, were in their final season.
Who would replace Corley, Kendall Barbee and Brynn Sokolowski in blue and orange was a major mystery.
“It’s getting harder and harder — fewer kids want to participate in high school sports now, and it’s not just cross country, that’s all,” Efird said. “You talk to kids about cross-country running and you don’t get a lot of yeses. You get a few maybes, and you hope they come out next year. So I didn’t know how good we could be this season, but I knew everyone in the county was fighting the same battle.
The Carson girls have made a habit of winning the county. When Efird looked at each rider’s times ahead of the Rowan County Championships, no team seemed dominant.
“I knew we had a chance, based on PR,” Efird said. “But I knew everything had to be lined up and I didn’t know where that winning shot came from. Some years you know you have it, but this was definitely not one of those years.
All went well for the Cougars at Dan Nicholas Park on Thursday. That’s four in a row. That’s seven championships in the last nine years. Carson finished second in the other two years of this streak, once at South Rowan and once (by one point) at Salisbury.
Carson’s Makayla Borst was the individual champion on Thursday. It’s her first individual championship, but she’s still here for the Cougars. It was the senior’s fourth season in all counties and she obviously featured in four championship teams.
She placed ninth in first grade. She was second by less than a second behind her teammate Corley during the 2020 COVID season which took place at the end of the year in colder weather. In 2021 she placed third behind Sutton Webb and Corley of Salisbury.
“Makayla is one of those girls who is picky about what she is looking for,” Efird said. “She will set one big goal rather than a lot of small ones. She told me last year that she was going to be county champion as a senior, and now she has achieved that goal. She plays soccer in the spring, when a lot of other good runners do track and field, which puts her at a bit of a disadvantage, but she was determined to win. West’s Katie Roberts is a great runner and she was there. I didn’t know if Makayla could hold her back, but she did. Makayla can be pretty fierce, really competitive, and she was tough in that last stretch. She comes from afar. She’s a quiet girl, but she’s become a very good leader for us as a senior.
Borst clocked 21:06, Roberts, a sophomore with a big future, crossed the line in 21:17.
Carson pieced together another championship from there. Emily Landaverde was third in 21:26. Julia Burleson placed 11th. Mackenzie Todd finished 13th. Hayley Borst, Makayla’s twin sister, also provides some leadership and was the Cougars’ fifth runner. She finished 15th. It was enough.
Carson’s total of 43 beat South Rowan (52), West Rowan (53) and East Rowan (65).
Landaverde was 14th in County as a rookie last season, but she’s running almost two minutes faster now.
Burleson is a new name and a new face. She’s a first year student.
“Landaverde is a football player, a very good athlete, and she has improved a lot,” Efird said. “Burleson has given us a very important and unexpected help. She was going to play volleyball, but changed her mind and decided to run. She is an athlete, basketball player and softball player. If you can get the athletes to cross country, you have a chance to develop them as runners.
Sophomore Todd and Hayley Borst were Carson’s sixth and seventh runners in 2021, finishing 20th and 17th in the county meet.
They’ve progressed enough to keep Carson on top.
“We’ve tried to make it a fun program and we work closely with our boys program and organize fun trips,” Efird said. “We’ve been lucky to have a lot of really good riders over the years and we’ve been lucky to have a great series of championships.”
South placed three runners in the top 10, with comebacks Madison Beaver (5th) and Blythe Elliott (6th) and rookie Madalyn Gulledge (9th).
Roberts got support from West teammates Anna Harrison (8th) and Marion Blake (10th).
Sadie Featherstone (4th), Iyanna Lynch Berry (7th) and Savannah Wise (12th) were the top runners for the Mustangs.
Next up for Carson, South, East and West is the Piedmont Southern Conference Championships on Oct. 20 at Frank Liske Park in Concord.
Whole county: Makayla Borst, Carson (21:06), Katie Roberts, WR (21:17), Emily Landaverde, Carson (21:26), Sadie Featherstone, ER (22:25), Madison Beaver, SR (22:52), Blythe Elliott, SR (22:58), Iyanna Lynch Berry, ER (23:05), Anna Harrison, WR (23:13), Madalyn Gulledge, SR (23:32), Marion Blake, WR (23:39) , Julia Burleson, Carson (23:39), Savannah Wise, ER (23:39).