It was a clean Enterprise sweep on the varsity level at The Eastgate cross country meet Thursday.
The Wildcats captured both individual and team honors at the meet, hosted by Providence Christian at Dothan’s Eastgate Park.
Enterprise’s Natalie Warner, two weeks after finishing runner-up at Eastgate during HA’s meet, won the girls race, while the Wildcats’ Tyler Rathburn captured the boys event.
Warner, a junior, had a winning time of 23 minutes and 5.58 seconds, a good 30 seconds ahead of Providence Christian’s Grace Crim (23:35.72), who won the HA meet over Warner on Aug. 29.
Rathburn, a senior, won the boys race in 18:13.30, slightly more than 12 seconds ahead of runner-up Robert Woodall of Providence (18:26.19).
The Enterprise girls, with five of the top seven runners, finished comfortably ahead of the host Eagles with 21 points compared to 34. Dothan (90) and Houston Academy (101) placed third in fourth. Seven other schools had runners, but didn’t have enough for team scoring.
On the boys side, Enterprise had four of the top six runners to easily outdistance Houston Academy and Providence Christian. The Wildcats had 27 points, while Houston Academy and PCS both had 66 points. HA took third off the tiebreaker as its sixth-place finisher (Alex Nolin, 29th place, 22:01.76) finished ahead of the Eagles’ sixth-place finisher (Aidan Benefield, 35th, 22:21.66).
Headland (144) was fourth, edging Wicksburg (146) with Dothan (163), Dadeville (187), Zion Chapel (196), Charles Henderson (245) and New Brockton (260) finishing sixth through 10th.
Warner credited hard work in the summer along with inspiration from previous teammates winning races for her victory.
“I feel I did a lot of work on things over the summer to improve myself this year and I feel I have seen that work pay off,” Warner said. “It is kind of a cool experience (to win) because over the years I have seen my teammates that I looked up to do that sort of thing and I wanted to follow them as role models.”
Warner said she was in second place in the early part of the race before moving into first, taking advantage of the wind at her back.
“For the better part of the race I was in second but once we got to the two-mile mark I just went around her,” Warner said of moving in front.
“The course was pretty windy for the first half of the race and once you got to the woods where the wind was at your back it felt a lot better and you could move up to the front then.”
The Enterprise runner admitted she was motivated by finishing runner-up in the race two weeks ago.
“I feel the spirit of competition motivates you,” Warner said. “It is encouraging to see other people win sometime because it pushes you more to do better next time.”
Following Warner and Providence’s Crim at the race was a contingent of Enterprise and Providence runners. The two schools had 16 of the top 17 runners with only Dothan’s Jami Diaz breaking into the pack, finishing 12th with a 26:03.92 time.
Enterprise runners Kayleigh Riordan and Mirna Thompson finished third and fourth with times of 24:23.09 and 24:31.49. Providence’s Mary Hannah Driggers (24.46.92) was fifth and Enterprise’s Alaura de Hoyas (24:53.77) and Amadeua Thompson (24:56.96) sixth and seventh.
Providence runners Elle Salter (25:25.46), Anna Catherine Farris (25:32.76) and Madelyn Patterson (25:33.76) rounded out the top 10.
Rathburn, who finished fifth at the HA meet two weeks ago, had a different strategy for Thursday’s meet, one he felt paid off.
“Our last meet, I went out a little too fast and I ended up getting beat,” Rathburn said. “I ended getting past around 800 meters left (two weeks ago), so I took out this race a little slower, but stayed at that front pack so I could break out with two miles to go and I just brought it hope.”
He admitted his break from the pack was a little later than he planned, but the previous meet’s experience was in his mind.
“I wanted to do it at a mile, but I stalled a little bit,” Rathburn said. “I was a little nervous about burning out (too soon).”
After Rathburn and Providence’s Woodall were Providence’s Clay Suddarth (18:29.79) and three Enterprise runners – Henry Templin (18:36.96), Brett Tessay (18:59.36) and William Kim (18:59.39) -- in third through sixth.
Houston Academy’s Gunnar Smith (19:15.91) and JC Peacock (19:20.91) finished seventh and eighth with Headland’s Will Scott (19:28.95) ninth and Houston Academy’s Alex Converse (19:29.21) rounding out the top 10.
Rathburn, one of only three Wildcat boys seniors, said it was fun to win for his teammates.
“It is a fun team to lead,” Rathburn said. “They are basically a family. To win it for them is an honor.”
Enterprise’s Chris Rodgers, who coaches the Wildcat cross country teams with Christina Rodgers, was pleased with the two teams during Thursday’s race.
“They are improving nicely,” Chris Rodgers said. “We are glad they did as well as they did today. We hope to improve more as the season goes along.”
Hart, Pacheco win middle school races: Houston Academy’s Holley Hart and Enterprise’s Freddy Pacheco won the girls and boys middle school races.
Hart won the girls 2-mile run in 16:13.54, winning by 11 plus seconds over Enterprise’s Evelyn Holmes-Smith (16:24.75).
Enterprise’s Stella Retherford (16:27.79) was third followed by Wicksburg’s Kelsey Ellenburg (16:49.12) and Elizabeth Bond (17:37.10). Enterprise’s Emma McCrea (17:46.24) and Opp’s Mackenzie Phillips (18:19.15) were sixth and seventh. Enterprise runners Talia De Hoyas (18:27.93), Madisen Tessay (18:39.01) and Lilly Anne Windham (19:57.18) rounded out the top 10.
On the boys side, Pacheco finished in 15:18.77 to beat out teammate Kristyan deJesus (15:39.40). Headland’s Logan Ivey (15:41.23) was third, followed by Providence’s Will Nicholls (15:47.05) and Davis Bolton (15:54.87). HA’s Nate Selig (16:03.55) and Willis McRae (16:05.91) were sixth and seventh.
Enterprise’s Austin Pless (16:33.69) was eight with Headland’s Trey Scott (17:00.11) and Mason Edwards (17:10.91) ninth and 10th.